Animal Testing and Agriculture

Animal Testing and Agriculture

Many people do not realise that in New Zealand a large proportion of animals used for research, testing and reaching are used in order to enhance the animal agriculture industries.

The Connection

The majority of the animals used in research, testing and teaching (RTT) in New Zealand are used in work related to animal-based agriculture. Thousands of animals are experimented on in NZ every year in an attempt to sustain the commercial farming of animals and profits for the chemical companies.

Animals are experimented on:

  • in attempts to make them more productive (eg attempts to increase the milk yielded from cows)
  • to test and produce agricultural chemicals and animal remedies
  • in toxicological testing to try to provide ‘safety’ levels of these chemicals for humans

We do not condone animal experimentation done for any purpose, including that which is done to bolster agriculture. Dairy cows in New Zealand, for example, have been bred and experimented on to produce such large quantities of milk that they experience severe threats to their health. 

Examples of animals being used for agricultural research in NZ

Fistilated animals:

For decades, New Zealand scientists have artificially created fistulas (also known as cannulas) in ruminant animals such as cows and sheep. Fistulas are tubes that are created surgically to connect a cow or sheep’s stomach to her skin. The outside of the fistula is covered with a plastic cap that can be opened by scientists to remove stomach contents for analysis or introduce foreign substances such as tracer gases or chemicals such as urea. 

fistulated cow
Fistulated or cannulated cow photographed at Massey University in 2000.


The picture above is of a fistulated cow at Massey University, who was being used for an experiment testing the nutritional value of a new feed variety. The cannula in her side was implanted to make her stomach easily accessible from the outside so that samples from her stomach could be tested. It is a painful procedure and cows are still suffering for up to 11 days after the unnecessary surgery.

Another purpose of a fistulated cow is to provide rumen fluid to unhealthy cows. Because of the intensity of the dairy industry and the strain placed on cows many experience health problems. Rumen-fluid is taken from a healthy fistulated cow and given to sick cows. The cannula provides easy access to the stomach of the fistulated cow — as if a sentient animal was a car at a gas station!

You can read more about experiments involving the creation of fistulas (cannula) in animals in New Zealand here.

Environmental impact research:

Often after fistulation, animals are used in experiments which cause further suffering. In the case of experiments exploring greenhouse gas emissions, cows and sheep are often confined in ‘metabolism chambers’ and/or ‘respiration chambers’. The latter are small plastic chambers which measure the gases produced by the animal (see below). You can also read more about this here.

This image above shows sheep in respiration chambers at AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre.


DairyNZ has done research on cows to measure methane production. A more efficient solution to controlling methane levels would be to cut it off at the source and end intensive, factory farming practises. Read more about this research here.