Last week MPs in the Primary Production Select Committee met to discuss the fate of thousands of lab animals in NZ. They were deciding on a petition that was asking for a mandatory retirement policy for ex-lab animals, to help encourage rehoming and prevent unnecessary euthanasia.
They have now released a report stating that they “do not consider that a mandatory retirement policy is necessary for animals used in RTT (research, testing and teaching)”. And that “at present, there is nothing in the Animal Welfare Act to preclude a research facility from offering animals to rescue centres once the research is complete”.
The issue isn’t that there is anything preventing facilities from rehoming ex-lab animals in the Act, it’s that there is nothing encouraging the rehoming of these animals which is clearly needed! In 2015 88,200 animals were killed during or after experimentation in NZ. It is evident that the government need to step in and at least encourage these facilities to try and adopt these animals out to loving homes, where they can.
The change we are asking for is small and could simply involve copying exactly what Australia already have in their legislation. Our international reputation is also on the line here. We should be aiming to be world leaders in animal welfare, not playing catch up to other, more progressive countries.
We will continue to work with HUHA and campaign for a legislative incentive to be established in NZ law to encourage the rehoming of ex-lab animals.
We have New Zealand's biggest no-kill animal shelter (HUHA), and the only organisation in NZ who solely campaigns to end animal testing (NZAVS), working together on this. That combined with the overwhelming amount of public support we have, makes us feel confident that we will succeed in our campaign. In the meantime, we can only apologise to the thousands of animals who will needlessly be killed because MPs didn’t think their lives were worth a small legislative change.
The full report from the Primary Production Select Committee can be found here
Their reasons for not supporting our petition are not good enough and they suggest that the committee did not listen to us or read any of the material that we sent them. If they did they would see that their concerns have already been addressed within our well thought out campaign.
To make it clear, the 39.1% of animals that were killed during or after experimentation in 2015 make up a total of 88,200 animals.
If these MPs think that over eighty thousand deaths aren't many, how many constitute a lot/a high enough number to do something about? The year before this (2014), a total of 106, 739 animals were killed in NZ for animal experimentation. Our standards may be different to these MPs as we find this figure shockingly high!
This report is misleading and they have tried to use statistics to skew the truth and we are utterly disappointment by that — we expected better!
The order that they have listed what most animals are used for is also very misleading and we think they have done this is a way to try and indicate that most research done in NZ is to help animals.
We would like you to see the statistics for yourself:
Purposes of animal usage in NZ in 2015 (for RTT):
- Basic biological research: 63,222 animals were used
- Veterinary research: 47,125
- Teaching: 29,410
- Medical research: 26,291
- Animal husbandry research: 20,268
- Testing: 19,191
- Environmental management research: 14,195
- Species conservation: 3,336
- Production of biological agents: 2,016
- Other: 256
- Development of alternatives: 0
As you can see, they decided to leave out medical research from their explanation...interesting!
Our partners in this campaign, HUHA have extensive experience rehabilitating institutionalised animals. We made it very clear that HUHA were willing and able to be the first point of contact for facilities who had animals needing to be rehomed.
We made it very clear on numerous occasions (i.e. during the two presentations that we gave to the select committee), that all animals are included in our ask for a mandatory retirement policy. We want to give mice, rats, rabbits and all other animals a chance at a life outside of the lab, not just cats and dogs. We have also made it clear that animals should only go to willing and able rescue centers as we understand the overwhelming amount of work that these facilities already have — the last thing we want to do is create more strain and stress on small groups and organisations that are already trying their best to help animals!
To emphasise these points see the below text which was taken from a summary of our campaign that was sent via email and post to all members of the select committee (these points were also covered during our presentation):
We don’t want to include only cats and dogs in a mandatory retirement policy for ex-lab animals in NZ, we want to include all animals used for RTT in NZ. We should be aiming to be world leaders in animal welfare and pave the way for other countries to make a similar legislative change to give ex-lab animals a second chance.
What we are asking for – a Mandatory Retirement Policy:
- NZAVS and HUHA are asking that the New Zealand government amend the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to include a mandatory retirement policy for ex-lab animals.
- This would ask research facilities to make a good-faith attempt to rehome any animals who survive the research process – most likely this would simply involve a phone call or email to HUHA or NZAVS.
- We would ask that the animals used for breeding animals for research also be included.
Note: We are only asking that facilities “try” and rehome the animals that have been used for RTT in NZ to willing and able research facilities.
We have also already contacted all facilities in NZ who use animals for research, testing and teaching (that we have access to), offering our services to rehome any ex-lab animals they have. So far these facilities have offered up zero animals to be rehomed. The regulatory system is not sufficient at all, it is very concerning how disconnected the Ministry appears to be.
We are disappointed by this response and we are surprised by their lack of honest and thorough consideration. All of their concerns have been addressed already.
Our petition is simply asking that facilities be required to at least try and rehome ex-lab animals to willing and able rescue centres, where they can. It isn't a huge ask and would be a matter of replicating what Australia already have in their legislation.
We will now be taking this issue to the Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities, Damien O'Connor. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on his response!