Stop the Otago Animal Labs

In 2016, the University of Otago announced that they would be building a new $50,000,000 animal laboratory. As reported by staff, they already have the largest laboratory animal facility in New Zealand. Now they want to become bigger.


In 2016 alone, the University of Otago used 14,213 animals, the majority (10,309) were killed. Dogs, cats, rats, mice, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds – the list goes on for the different animals Otago use.

Uni should be pain-free for everyone, there is no need for animals to be tortured and killed.


By building a whole new laboratory, the university has created the perfect opportunity to start practising the most advanced, current and relevant research, testing and teaching (RTT) methods. Animal-based methods are none of those things and yet, they have decided to entrench themselves further into this inaccurate and unethical method.


The University of Otago needs to change the type of research, testing and teaching methods happening inside ALL their laboratories to non-animal-based methods and technology.



Sign our petition to the University of Otago telling them to lead New Zealand forward by no longer using animals for research, testing and teaching!


Note: On desktop the petition is at the top right-hand side of this page, on mobile it is near the bottom of the page, click here to scroll down to the form.




Students should learn without hurting anyone, and this will also enable them to receive the most relevant education. Otago students are not receiving the best teaching methods available, because the university is choosing to teach with cruel and out-of-date (animal-based) methods.

Otago is sticking to what they’ve done for decades, instead of adapting to the optimal, latest methods and technologies accessible.

USA and Canada have now ended animal use for training purposes in all medical school courses. While other first world countries are progressing forward in their student training, the University of Otago is choosing to be left behind and limit its own student’s prospects, by using animals for their teaching.

As the scientific community is moving away from flawed animal-based RTT methods, the University of Otago students will be ill-prepared for the international employment market, with their limited understanding of current research methods and technologies.

As the rest of the scientific community continues this move forward, Otago’s students will only suffer further.




The University of Otago wants you to believe they are performing ‘humane’ research on animals that is necessary for finding lifesaving treatments for humans.

They say this new facility will “advance research in areas including cancer, diabetes, obesity, fertility and neuroscience.”

Using animals to predict the human response is fundamentally flawed, therefore this claim isn't accurate. Animal-based research being used with the intent of creating cures and treatments for human illnesses is unreliable, inapplicable and downright dangerous.  


Accurate Science Starts with Accurate Models. Humans Are Not 70kg Rats

Animals bodies can’t predict the human body response because of the various genetic, physiological and metabolic differences between them and us. It is obvious why you don’t take your pet to your GP, and why a vet will not examine a human. So why is it so hard for the University of Otago to understand that researching on a different species for another is senseless?


For example:

Research using animals for advancing diabetes research hasn’t worked for humans. In 2006, the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) announced that after over thirty years of experiments on mice and rats, researchers discovered that the internal structure and function of the human pancreatic islet cell, which is central to the development of diabetes, are dramatically different from that in the “well-studied rodent”. DRI now consider the use of the rodent model as “no longer relevant for human studies.” They state:

“We can no longer rely on studies on mice and rats. It is now imperative that we focus on human islets. At the end of the day, it is the only way to understand how they function.”

Read more


Another example:

Animal-based research methods for advancing research for cancer hasn’t worked for humans either. The use of mice for cancer research has been going on for over forty years and it has developed many cures for cancers in mice but it is not producing corresponding results in humans.

“We cure cancer in mice and rats… we do it all the time, but these animal models are not human beings. Human beings are much more complex.” – Dr Patric Schiltz, cancer researcher.

Read more


If their bodies are the lab tools, everyone suffers.

Not only is animal-based research holding us back from finding potential cures, it is also harming humans. The most famous example is the thalidomide example which left over 10,000 babies deformed. This happened because animal experiments didn’t accurately predict the human response. 

Here is a whole list of cases where animal-based research failed to predict human reactions. 


Claims of humane treatment

The University of Otago has also emphasised that this new facility will provide the “highest standard of care for the animals used in research.”

Despite this leading you to believe that these animals will live a life free from pain, fear and harm, the reality is these animals are treated as nothing more than disposable laboratory tools. The University of Otago is very secretive about their animal experiments because they know the public would be horrified to learn what the university does to vulnerable innocent beings.  They know their institute would be vastly opposed if the public knew.

Keep in mind, this is the same university that shot live pigs in the head to study blood spatter patterns - even though pigs are fundamentally different to humans, especially regarding their skull! 

Or the same university that has their Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) approve implanting devices into rat’s brains, then inducing high-level seizures while conscious.

Saying you will treat animals humanely and then conduct highly invasive experiments on them is nothing but ironic and blatantly untruthful.


Non-Animal Based Research Solutions

We advocate human-based research, which involves sophisticated tests that use human cells and tissues, advanced computer-modelling techniques and humane studies with human volunteers, like micro-dosing.

Amazing methods exist that are not only humane but are also reliable and accurate, unlike animal models, such as organ on a chip or living, metabolically active 3D tissue models.

A recent example of human-based research being more successful than animal experimentation, is the new HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate that was developed by looking at people that naturally don’t progress to AIDS from HIV. Researchers expect that this would work in around 95% of people. Decades of work has already been completed using primates to try and develop a vaccine for HIV. Researchers have found over 100 vaccines that worked in chimpanzees, yet not one of these worked in humans.  Think of not just the suffering and eventual death that occurred to these sentient primates, but also consider how many human lives could have been saved over those years if human-based research had been used.

There are many organisations around the world that are working hard performing non-animal-based research to develop drugs, cures and new ways of testing the safety of these products. Such examples are AltToxWYSS InstituteMatTek and ARDF.

To read more on non-animal/human based methods go here.




The University of Otago needs to stop using animals for research, testing and teaching.

Experimenting on animals is obviously unethical, and the scientific evidence is overwhelming that testing on them does not accurately predict the human body response. Also, students should never be made to cross their own ethical boundaries and they deserve to receive the most relevant and advanced education available.

The University of Otago is capable of becoming the first completely animal-free university in New Zealand.

We know it is something they can achieve. With your support, we can help the University of Otago to make a positive change for animals, people and science!




Sign the Petition Now!

Let the University of Otago know you want them to lead New Zealand forward by no longer using animals for research, testing and teaching!

Let them hear your opposition to their current plan of entrenching further into animal-based methods.

We, along with the many people suffering from cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, and the thousands of suffering animals need your help!

Note: On desktop the petition is at the top right-hand side of this page, on mobile it is near the bottom of the page, click here to scroll down to the form.




Other organisations against the University of Otago's choice to entrench further in animal experimentation



Quote from Humane Society International’s Letter to the University of Otago:

“We strongly urge the university to re-examine the proposal for the animal facility and to consider repurposing its available funding toward the development of a cutting-edge Centre for Excellence in Human Based Biomedicine, a first for the country, and a feather in the cap of Otago University.”

Read more here



SPCA New Zealand Chief Executive Ric Odom stated:

“There are now viable alternatives – including the use of cell, tissue, and organ cultures, human volunteers and computer modelling – that should enable New Zealand institutions to be actively reducing the amount of experimentation carried out on sentient animals rather than ramping it up.”

Read more here 


Quote from Beagle Freedom Project’s letter to the University of Otago:

“Instead of spending $50 million on an animal testing facility, we urge you to spend that on alternatives, which will be more accurate and save money in the long run. We are demanding that you NOT build the Otago Animal Lab.”

Read more here





Humane Research Australia’s official statement on University of Otago’s new animal laboratory:

“Spending NZD 50 million on a new animal research facility is an absolute travesty – not only for the animals used in cruel experiments but also for the ailing humans who are clinging on to the false hope that animal research will provide them with the cures they so desperately need. Humane R esearch Australia urges Otago University to divert these funds to more ethical and scientifically-valid methods of research. To proceed with the new animal research facility will be a huge step backwards in medical progress."

Read more here




PETA’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“The fact that the species most often used in laboratory experiments are chosen largely for non-scientific reasons, such as cost and ease of handling, casts further doubt on the validity of this research. PETA supports the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society’s ‘Stop the Otago Animal Lab’ campaign.”

Read more here




Animal Aid’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“Animal Aid was successful in halting plans by the University of Cambridge for a huge extension to their animal research facilities and we hope the NZAVS will prevail in this campaign. In the twenty-first century those interested in genuine scientific progress should be investing in humane, non-animal methods, not the archaic and outdated ‘science’ that is animal research.”

Read more here



SAFE’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“Animal research and testing is an extremely inefficient means of attempting to advance human healthcare because it kills millions of animals each year, it doesn't reliably predict human responses and it cost enormous amounts of money including taxpayer funding."  — Now the previous CEO of  SAFE NZ, Jasmijn De Boo

Read more here




It is clear that there isn't just nationwide opposition to the University of Otago's disappointing decision to invest $50 million into a new animal laboratory, but there is also growing global opposition to this outdated plan.

The world is watching you Otago, make the right decision for animals, people and for science!







Sign the petition

Help animals, people and science - Sign the Petition Today!

To the University of Otago,

We ask that you lead New Zealand forward by no longer using animals for research, testing and teaching (RTT.)

By investing $50,000,000 in a new animal laboratory, you are choosing to miss an opportunity to practice the most advanced, relevant and humane RTT methods. Human-relevant and humane RTT methods should be used instead of unreliable and inaccurate animal models.

We urge you to start using the best RTT methods, rather than investing more resources into animal experimentation.

Please make the right decision for the future of human health, student education and the well-being of thousands of animals.


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Stop the Otago Animal Labs Update!
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Humane Society International Writes to the University of Otago
Stop the Otago Animal Lab Campaign Update!
Our Campaign Manager visited Dunedin recently to work on our Stop the Otago Animal Lab campaign! Check out our campaign updates here.
I'd Vote YES!
We're asking #StopTheOtagoAnimalLab supporters all around the nation to support the student referendum and let the University know that they'd vote YES if they could!
Student Referendum at the University of Otago Now Open!
The Otago University Students' Association Referendum opens today! This year they have included a question on the $50 million animal lab! We're
Physics Professor’s Animal Testing Claims Rejected
What we have to say to Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Richard Blaikie's false claims.
The New $50 Million Animal Lab at the University of Otago Delayed by Asbestos Find!
Asbestos has been discovered at the new animal lab site! This means the project will be delayed, but will also cost even more money! How much is the University willing to spend on outdated and non-predictive research methods?
Groups Around the Globe Want to Stop the Otago Animal Lab Too!
It isn't just NZAVS who is opposed to the University of Otago building a new $50 million animal lab - Check out the many other groups who have something to say about it!
NZAVS Celebrates World Day for Lab Animals by Marching to Stop the Otago Animal Lab!
NZAVS were out in Dunedin today marching against the new $50 million animal lab at the University of Otago! We were even joined by celebrity animal-rights activist James Aspey!
Happy Valentines Day Action to Stop the Otago Animal Lab



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