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Have Your Say on Significant Surgical Procedures on Animals in NZ

Have Your Say on Significant Surgical Procedures on Animals in NZ


The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is currently asking for public feedback about proposed regulations for significant surgical procedures on animals. They have also held public meetings around the country on this issue — we attended the meeting in Auckland to find out more about these proposed changes.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, "significant surgical procedures" may only be undertaken by a veterinarian (or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian) unless regulations provide otherwise.

From May 2020, new criteria will be brought in to the Animal Welfare Act to make it easier to determine whether a procedure is a ‘significant surgical procedure’. To go with these criteria, MPI is proposing regulations to make it clear who can carry out specific procedures and what requirements must be met. See a full list of these proposed changes here.

We are not happy with some of the proposed regulations and how they will impact animals used in research, testing, and teaching. The main proposal that we have an issue with is the exclusion of research, testing, and teaching procedures from requirements in regulations.

Regulations should apply to animals used in research, testing, and teaching unless explicitly stated that they do not, rather than the other way around. If it has been determined that a practice or procedure adversely affects animal welfare, then this practice or procedure should not be allowed in the course of research, testing, or teaching — particularly given the limited oversight of animals used in this space by animal welfare inspectors. The lack of transparency around this industry and public access to information relating to the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching heightens the importance of animals in research, testing, and teaching being included in these regulations.

Submissions close on Wednesday, 24 July 2019 and we strongly recommend taking a closer look at these proposed regulations and submitting your feedback! Find out more here.

See our submission below to find out the rest of our feedback — you can also use this as a template.

 


New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society Inc.

Submission on the Proposed Animal Welfare Regulations - Significant surgical procedures

 

Contact: Tara Jackson, Executive Director

tara@nzavs.org.nz

This submission focuses on the proposed changes to significant surgical procedures (SSPs) regulations that relate to the use of animals for research, testing, and teaching (RTT).

It is important to note that we are against, and do not condone, animal experimentation and the harmful use of animals for RTT purposes. Our aim is for all cases that fit within this scope in RTT in NZ to end immediately. As this is not the intent of the present proposals, we will not expand on this further.

 

Section 8.4 — Research, testing, and teaching, and section 5(3) of the Act

 

Proposal 1 — All animals - tissue removal for research, testing, and teaching, or for functions under section 5(3) of the Act

Ideal outcome:

No tissue removal should be allowed in the course of RTT if it does not benefit the individual animal involved or aid in species conservation. 

Compromised outcome:

“Competent” person needs to be a clearly defined term, or a qualified person or group of people (e.g. veterinarians) need to be responsible for determining whether or not persons are competent. It would be appropriate for such decisions to be open to public scrutiny.

It should be confirmed that a demonstrably competent person will be available before the use of animals which requires a veterinarian or competent person is approved by an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The public should be able to access the relevant information needed to examine what is considered a competent person in relation to all uses of animals for RTT.

The removal of tissue should not happen without effective pain relief. All SSPs in RTT should require pain relief administered by a veterinarian.

The pain management plan should be designed by a veterinarian experienced in managing pain in that species and should be the most effective pain management available based on current knowledge. Ideally, this would include both local anaesthetic and effective ongoing pain relief.

 

Proposal 2 — All animals – surgical tagging for research, testing, and teaching, or for functions under section 5(3) of the Act

Ideal outcome:

No surgical tagging should be allowed in the course of RTT if it does not benefit the individual animal involved or aid in species conservation. 

Compromised outcome:

Pain relief should be used for tagging. The pain management plan should be designed by a veterinarian experienced in managing pain in that species and should be the most effective pain management available based on current knowledge.

 

Proposal 3 — All animals - desexing and sterilising of animals used in research, testing, and teaching.

Ideal outcome:

Only qualified veterinarians should be able to desex or sterilise all animals.

Compromised outcome:

As above, “competent” person needs to be a clearly defined term, or a qualified person or group of people (e.g. veterinarians) need to be responsible for determining whether or not persons are competent. It would be appropriate for such decisions to be open to public scrutiny.

It should be confirmed that a demonstrably competent person will be available before the use of animals which requires a veterinarian or competent person is approved by an AEC. The public should be able to access the relevant information needed to examine what is considered a competent person in relation to all uses of animals for RTT.

For all animals, a pain management plan should be implemented and designed by a veterinarian experienced in managing pain in that species and should be the most effective pain management available based on current knowledge.

 

Proposal 4 — All animals – exclusion of research, testing, and teaching procedures carried out as part of an Animal Ethics Committee approved project under Part 6 of the Act

We strongly oppose the exclusion of the use of animals in RTT from regulations relating to SSPs. Regulations should apply to RTT unless expressly stated that they do not. The possibility of an AEC wanting to approve a future project unencumbered by regulations is less important than the welfare of animals.

We acknowledge that MPI believes that AECs are competent to make decisions around the use of animals for RTT. Our research suggests otherwise. For example, approval of the Forced Swim Test for modelling human responses, despite it being established that that test has no useful translational value to humans or the approval of animals being killed for dissection purposes (which the University of Otago has confirmed that they currently do) when many alternatives currently exist.

Section 80 of the Act states that the principal purpose of Part 6 of the Act (which governs the use of animals in RTT) includes ensuring that that the use of animals in RTT is confined to cases in which there is good reason to believe the benefits derived from the use of animals in RTT are not outweighed by the likely harm to the animals. The other purposes include promoting efforts to reduce the number of animals used in RTT to the minimum necessary and replacing animals as subjects for RTT by substituting, where appropriate, non-sentient or non-living alternatives.

AECs are required to consider section 80 when considering applications under section 100. We do not consider AECs to be reliable when it comes to applying the Act properly, as demonstrated by the approval by AECs of the two examples mentioned above.

The approval of the use of animals for RTT is left up to small committees that tend to include people who have conducted animal experiments themselves and have a vested interest in the practice. We have noticed that people who hold leadership positions on AECs normally have a history of conducting animal-based research. There is no requirement for any type of expert in non-animal based RTT methods to be included on AECs, which is concerning given that AECs are required to consider suitable alternative methods.

We do not consider that AECs are equipped to be given the additional responsibility of deciding if an SSP should be allowed to occur in the course of research, testing, or teaching. There is also insufficient oversight of AECs to ensure that they make such decisions lawfully.

Animals used in RTT should be protected by SSP regulations unless the regulations explicitly state otherwise so that animals are not reliant on AECs for protection from unnecessary or excessive harm.

A lack of transparency is a major issue in the RTT regime.  Information about AEC decisions, and membership information, even non-personal information such as relevant experience and expertise that led to the appointment of members, is not made available to the public in the interests of accountability and transparency.

To improve transparency, the AEC approval process should be made public. The aims and methods sections of applications that are approved by AECs should be made public so that the public can be assured that lawful and appropriate decisions are being made.

To avoid creating biased AEC memberships that do not properly question the benefits of RTT they are being asked to approve, AECs should not have more than one member who has conducted animal experimentation in the past and should not be led by such a member.

 

Compliance and Enforcement Regime

As well as RTT being covered by SSP regulations, the use of animals for RTT should be covered as part of the compliance and enforcement regime. It is wholly inappropriate that animal welfare inspectors do not check RTT facilities.

It is difficult to consider RTT compliance and enforcement needs when the use of animals for RTT remains hidden from the public and is largely self-regulated. We do not consider that providing annual statistics on numbers of animals used and killed etc. and audits every 5 years are a sufficient check on compliance with Part 6 of the Act.

Many animals used in RTT are subject to procedures that cause significant fear and pain. It is vital that the approval of these procedures is not taken lightly and that the approval process is not done without any opportunity for public accountability. We have taken this opportunity to highlight the need for genuine transparency around the use of animals in RTT.