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Vivisection in NZ FAQs & Facts

Vivisection in NZ FAQs & Facts

Animal experimentation in NZ - Everything you need to know!

How many animals are used for experimentation in NZ? 

Approximately 300,000 animals are used for research, testing and teaching (RTT) in NZ every year. You can access the most up to date animal usage statistics (compiled and released by the NZ government) from 2016 here. Also, see a breakdown of the types of animals used below. 


The animal usage statistics captured annually by the NZ government are the closest estimate to the total number of animals used for animal experimentation in NZ that currently exists. These include the number of live "animals" used for RTT (research, testing and teaching procedures where animals have been "manipulated").

Important definitions to be aware of:

  • An "Animal" — The Animal Welfare Act 1999 (AWA) defines an animal as any live member of the animal kingdom that is a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish (bony or cartilaginous), octopus, squid, crab, lobster or crayfish (including freshwater crayfish), and includes any marsupial pouch young or mammalian foetus, or any avian or reptilian pre-hatched young, that is in the last half of its period of gestation or development.

Any living organism that falls outside of the above definition isn't protected by the AWA and therefore isn't counted in the annual statistics for animals used for RTT in NZ.  

  • "Manipulation" of animals — The definition of "manipulation" under the AWA means interfering with an animal’s normal physiology, behaviour, or anatomy. It includes subjecting an animal to unusual or abnormal practices (e.g. exposure to parasites,  microorganisms, drugs, chemicals, biological products, radiation, electrical stimulation or environmental conditions, enforced activity, restraint, nutrition, or surgical intervention) or depriving it of its usual care.

Animals that are used for something outside of the above definition, aren't included in the annual statistics for animals used for RTT in NZ.

Note: The definition of manipulation has now changed to include the killing of an animal for dissection and the breeding of an animal using any breeding technique (including genetic modification) that may result in the birth of an animal that is more susceptible to, or at greater risk of, pain or distress during its life as a result of the breeding or production. Read more on this below. 

What animals aren't counted?

The animal usage report produced by MPI doesn’t include animals used for breeding or animals that are bred and then not used for RTT. This report also doesn't include the number of animals killed for dissection purposes. 

The reality is that only a portion of the animals bred, confined and killed in NZ facilities are even used. Many spend their short lives in a small plastic container in a breeding unit before being killed and disposed of as they are excess to requirements. 

This year (2018) the reporting system has changed, and animals killed for dissection and animals used for some (not all) breeding purposes will be included and counted in these annual statistics.

Once the 2018 information is available (towards the end of 2019) we will know how many animals have been used (over this year) for these purposes in NZ for the first time. Therefore we will likely see a significant increase in the number of animals used in NZ for RTT. 


On 1 January 2018 the definition of manipulation in the Animal Welfare Act was expanded to include:

1.            the killing of animals (other than in a wild state) for the purpose of performing RTT on that animal’s body or tissues. 

2.            the breeding or production of an animal using any breeding technique (including genetic modification) that may result in the birth or production of an animal that is more susceptible to, or at greater risk of, pain or distress during its life as a result of the breeding or production.

How do we know how many animals are used for RTT in NZ?

An annual report on the number of animals used for RTT in NZ is compiled and released by the NZ government. MPI is responsible for producing this report accurately and for making it available to the public. 

Each year, by the end of February, every facility in NZ that uses animals for RTT has to provide MPI with the information including:

- The number of animals used that year for RTT

- The source of the animals used

- The status of the animal (i.e. normal/conventional, diseased, unborn/pre-hatched etc.),

- The reason for manipulation (i.e. teaching, species conservation, medical research, testing etc.)

- If the animals had been used before

- The level/grade of impact the animals' experience (varies from no impact to very high impact)

- What happened to the animals if they were alive at the end of the experiment and the reason for death if the animals died.

Facilities that are privately owned are not subject to the Official Information Act. We, therefore, don’t know a lot about the research going on in these facilities, and can only speculate from MPI's annual report.

FYI: Up until 2014, the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) released an annual report which stated how many animals were used for research, testing and teaching in NZ, what the animals were used for and who did the testing for the previous year. After that/now this report no longer includes the annual animal use statistics. These are now published separately on the MPI website. 

Note: Don't confuse NAEAC with NAWAC (The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee)

What are the rules around the use of animals for RTT in NZ? 

Animal use for RTT in NZ is regulated by Part 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This section is called  'The Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching'. All other requirements of the Animal Welfare Act are exempt from Part 6, meaning that people using animals for animal experimentation follow a separate set of rules. MPI oversees this legislation. 

Organisations using live animals for RTT (and "manipulating" the animals involved) in NZ have to:

  • Have an approved code of ethical conduct (or use another facility's approved code) that sets out the policies and procedures that should be followed by the organisation and its animal ethics committee (AEC)
  • Have either an AEC or an arrangement with another facility to use their AEC. AEC's approve the use of animals for RTT. Read more about what AEC's are below. 
  • Submit annual statistics on the number of animals used for RTT to MPI. 


Only RTT that involves using "animals" as defined by the AWA requires approval from an AEC. Any living organism that falls outside of that scope doesn't require AEC approval in NZ. 

Only RTT that involves the "manipulation" of animals, as defined by the AWA requires approval from an AEC. Any procedure that falls outside of that scope doesn't require AEC approval in NZ. 

The following do not require AEC approval:
  • School, classroom or student pets including pet days where appropriate animal care is given
  • Observations of behaviour (provided the presence of people does not interfere with normal behaviour, for example, animals giving birth are often affected by the presence of people)
  • Observations of body structure and function
  • Measurement of growth, e.g. regular weighing to chart a growth curve
  • Identification of diet preferences and food “treats”
  • Observation of animal response to different cage equipment such as tubes, platforms and ramps
  • Breeding to teach reproduction and development
  • Routine animal care and handling techniques including routine farm husbandry practices

The above list was sourced from the New Zealand Association of Science Educators. 

What are Animal Ethics Committees?

Organisations using live animals for RTT in NZ have to get approval from an AEC by submitting an application and getting it approved. These applications include what individuals want to do with the animals and why. There is no consistent application for every AEC which is just one of the many problems with AEC's — they aren’t asking for or considering the same things.

Each AEC consists of at least four members including an independent vet, a layperson nominated by a local body, and a nominee of an approved animal welfare organisation (the only such approved organisation being the SPCA).  According to MPI, their purpose is "to weigh the benefits of the proposed RTT against the welfare cost to animals in considering applications, stipulate appropriate conditions, monitors compliance with approvals and monitor animal management practices and facilities".

Animal Ethics Committees are overseen by NAEAC (The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee). NAEAC is appointed to provide independent advice to the Minister of MPI, MPI, AECs, and others relating to the use of animals in RTT. NAEAC is made up of a chairperson and up to nine other members. 

Who uses animals for RTT in NZ?

At least 139 different facilities across NZ use animals for RTT.

We don't have a complete list of all the facilities who use animals for RTT in NZ. We only have access to the list of facilities which have an approved code of ethical conduct or have notified arrangements to use an approved code in 2016 here. This list has 139 organisations/companies on it. 

Institutes using animals in NZ could use another facility's code of conduct and AEC and withhold their information from being accessible under the OIA, making it hard to tell if they are using animals for RTT. It is, therefore, possible that more than 139 facilities are experimenting on animals in NZ.

What are animals used for? (From the 2016 data set):

Basic biological research: 45,471

Veterinary research: 58,365

Teaching: 30,396

Animal husbandry research: 11,926

Medical research: 16,542

Testing: 53,123

Environmental management research: 7447

Species conservation: 4453

Other: 949

Production of biological agents: 25,717

Development of alternatives: 64

The definitions of these purposes (taken from the MPI Report — Statistics on the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching in New Zealand in 2016 ):

Teaching: Animals used for teaching or instruction, at any level.

Species conservation: Work directed towards species conservation. The species to be conserved may or may not be directly involved, e.g. nutrition studies using more common species can benefit an endangered species. 

Environmental management: Environmental management, including the control of animal pests and research into methods of reducing production of greenhouse gases.

Animal husbandry: Animal husbandry, including reproduction, nutrition, growth and production.

Basic biological research: Basic biological research.

Medical research: Research aimed at improving the health and welfare of humans, but not research on human subjects.

Veterinary research: Research aimed at improving the health and welfare of production and companion animals.

Testing: Animals used for public health testing or to ensure the safety, efficacy or quality of products to meet regulatory requirements for human or animal products, either in New Zealand or internationally. 

Production of biological agents: Animals used for raising antibodies or for the supply of blood products.

Development of alternatives: Work aimed at developing methods to replace or reduce the use of live animals in research, testing and teaching.

Other: Manipulations for purposes other than those listed above.

Note: The main reasons for animal testing globally are generally for product safety testing and biomedical research (developing new drugs and medicines). The exception is in NZ, where a large proportion of animals used for research, testing and teaching are used to enhance the animal agriculture in NZ.

What are the most common animals used for RTT in NZ? 

These were the most commonly used animals for RTT in 2016:


If you have further questions about animal experimentation in NZ, please contact us —


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