On the 21st November 2017, we were informed that our friends at Passion 4 Paws (an animal sanctuary which has since closed down), had been given five pigs who were originally from the Auckland Island pig breeding facility at Awarua. Passion 4 Paws were trying to rehome all of these pigs who had spent their lives in a breeding facility, where their piglets were used for stem cell research.
The pigs were originally taken from Auckland Island in 1999 by the Rare Breeds Conservation Society, the "rescuers" then formed a trust with the Invercargill City Council, and called it the Southern Heirloom Breeds Trust. Prior to this, the pigs had been isolated on the island for an estimate of one hundred years. This made the pigs desirable for research subjects as they hadn’t been exposed to the pathogens and diseases that other pigs, in non-isolated areas, had.1
Cells from Auckland Island pigs are being used in new trials, which involve capsules of pig cells being implanted into the brains of people with well-established Parkinson's.2
The Auckland Island pig breeding facility was closed down in 2016. Fifteen of these pigs are still at Southland Heirloom Breeds Charitable Trust in Invercargill and are still being used for research into Parkinson's disease. Our friend, Dr Andre Menache, explains why this is scientifically flawed here.
Update: Southland Heirloom Breeds Charitable Trust has since leased 16 Auckland Island pigs to NZeno for research purposes. The pigs will now be used for research into pig kidney transplantation into humans.
NZeno claims that it wants to use gene editing to inactivate the pig genes that are responsible for the immune rejection of transplanted organs. We think time and other resources would be better spent conducting human-relevant research to better increase the chances of helping the millions of people needing kidney transplants around the world. It is an absolute shame that NZeno is continuing down the archaic path of animal experimentation.
2. Wilson, Clare, "Pig cells treat Parkinson's", New Scientist (17 June 2017) p. 6.