Animals in Science NZ

Animals in Science NZ

Each year, hundreds of thousands of animals in New Zealand, and an estimated 115.3 million worldwide, are used in the name of science.

Animals are subject to cruel and archaic experiments that are permitted under NZ law because of the huge misconception that animal-based research and testing can protect and save human lives. 

We do not have to choose between inflicting pain and suffering on animals and finding medical treatments and cures for people. Instead, animal-free and human-relevant research methods can be used to create accurate and far more relevant results! An end to animal experimentation would be a win for animals, people and science.


The number of animals used in NZ:

Approximately 300,000 animals are used for research, testing and teaching (RTT) in NZ every year. 

Graph source: The Ministry for Primary Industries


Annual animal usage statistics:

Find out more here.


How animals are used:


Animals are used as models in biological and medical research to study human disease, injury, development, psychology, anatomy and physiology. They are also used in:

  • Veterinary research (this includes research relating to companion animals and animals used in farms)
  • Basic biological research (the study of living things and their processes)
  • Animal husbandry research 
  • Environmental management research
  • Research into species conservation


Animals are subject to tests to try and assess the safety, efficacy or quality of products, chemicals and other substances.

Note: Although testing cosmetics on animals in NZ is now prohibited, NZ companies can still pay for these tests to be conducted outside of NZ.


Animals are used in dissections, demonstrations and other teaching exercises in schools, universities and other tertiary institutes. 


Other scientific uses of animals in NZ include the use of animals for the production of biological agents and in the development of alternatives.


The main use of animals in NZ:

People often think that the main use of animals in science is for product safety testing and biomedical research (developing new drugs and medicines). But in NZ this is not the case. The biggest proportion of animals used for research, testing and teaching in NZ are used to try and enhance animal agriculture. Find out more here.


Our position on animal use in science:

In NZ animals manipulated for claimed scientific purposes are categorised by the government into three groups — research, testing and teaching (RTT).

We are not opposed to all research, testing and teaching involving animals because not all cases involve animal experimentation or are harmful to animals. Our position can vary between studies and is dependent on the scientific and ethical factors involved. For example, using a non-harmful tag and release research method on Kiwis for conservation purposes would not be something we are opposed to.

One of the easiest ways to illustrate the wide-ranging use of animals for claimed scientific purposes is by looking at Dr Ray Greeks nine uses of animals in science.


Types of animals used:

A wide variety of animals are used for research, testing and teaching purposes in NZ including:

  • Alpacas/llamas
  • Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Cows
  • Cephalopods/crustaceans
  • Deer
  • Dogs
  • Fish
  • Goats
  • Guinea pigs
  • Horses/donkeys
  • Marine mammals
  • Mice
  • Pigs
  • Possums
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Reptiles
  • Sheep
  • Other species

Other species include but are not limited to:

Bats, ferrets, stoats, hedgehogs, llamas, alpacas, chinchillas, chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, wallabies, spider monkeys, Himalayan tahr, meerkats and weasels. 

Animals that can’t be used:

According to the Animal Welfare Act, 1999, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans (non-human hominids) can’t be used for research, testing or teaching purposes in NZ, unless special requirements are met.


The most commonly used animals:

Mice, sheep and cattle were in the top four most commonly used animals for research, testing and teaching purposes in NZ from 1989-2020. 


Most commonly used animal for science in NZ annually:

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
#1 Cattle Cattle Fish Cattle Cattle Fish  Fish 
#2 Mice Sheep Sheep Fish  Sheep Mice Cattle
#3 Fish Mice Mice Mice Mice Cattle Rabbits
#4 Sheep Fish Cattle Sheep Fish  Sheep Mice


Where animals are used:

During the most recent year that there is data available (2021), 138 different institutions were able to use animals for research, testing or teaching purposes. See a breakdown below.

  • Institutions with approved codes of ethical conduct that can carry out research, testing or teaching on animals: 23
  • Organisations/individuals using another institution’s animal ethics committee: 115
  • Total number of institutes able to use animals for research, testing or teaching purposes: 138

Access the full list of institutes here. 

The following types of organisations use animals for research, testing or teaching purposes: 

  • Universities
  • Polytechnics and institutes of technology
  • Schools
  • Commercial organisations (businesses that sell goods or services for the purpose of making a profit)
  • Crown Research Institutes (Crown-owned companies that carry out scientific research to try to benefit New Zealand — find out more here)
  • Government departments 
  • Other (non-university medical research institutes, zoos/wildlife parks and individuals)


Where animals were used the most for science in NZ annually

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020  2021
#1 Commercial organisations Commercial organisations Universities Commercial organisations Commercial organisations Universities Commercial organisations
#2 Universities Crown research institutes Commercial organisations Universities Universities Commercial organisations Universities
#3 Crown research institutes Universities Crown research institutes Crown research institutes Other Crown research institutes Crown research institutes
#4 Other Polytechnics & institutes of technology Other Other Crown research institutes Other Other


Where animals are sourced from:

Animals used in science can be sourced from the following places:

  • Breeding units: An institutional unit dedicated to breeding animals for manipulation.
  • Commercial sources: Obtained from a commercial supplier of animals.
  • Farms: Farm animals obtained from a farm; the farm may be a commercial unit or belong to the institution. Animals such as a pet which happens to live on a farm or wild animals caught on farmland should not be included in this category.
  • Born during projects: Intended for offspring whose birth is part of the project, e.g. lambing or hatching studies.
  • Captured: Captured in the wild.
  • Imported: Imported into New Zealand from an overseas source.
  • Public sources: Public donations, animals obtained from a pound, a pet shop or other public sources. This includes privately owned pets which are ‘borrowed’ for the duration of the exercise (e.g. veterinary nurse training).

The above definitions were sourced from the Ministry for Primary Industries


Further reading: