Animals Bred to Be Used in Science

Animals Bred to Be Used in Science


Breeding units are yet another dark secret of the animal experimentation industry.

Sadly many animals are bred specifically for the purpose of being used for research, testing or teaching purposes in New Zealand. The fate of these animals has already been predetermined, they never stood a chance!

In 2018 alone, 72,072 animals used for science came from breeding units. A breeding unit is "an institutional unit dedicated to breeding animals for manipulation" (according to the Ministry for Primary Industries/MPI).

Places that sourced animals from breeding units

The following institutes sourced animals from breeding units and used them for research, testing or teaching purposes in 2018: 

  • Abacus Biotech Ltd
  • Ag research Ltd 
  • Arotec Diagnostic Ltd
  • Auckland University of Technology
  • Cawthron Institute  
  • CuroNZ Ltd
  • Living Cells technologies
  • Massey university
  • NIWA
  • National Trade Academy
  • Synthase Biotech Ltd
  • Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology
  • University of Auckland 
  • University of Canterbury
  • University of Otago, Christchurch
  • University of Otago
  • University of Otago, Wellington
  • University of Waikato
  • Victoria University
  • Waikato Institute of Technology
  • Wellington Zoo Trust

This may not be a complete list – it’s only the information that we could obtain via the animal usage forms supplied to us by MPI from an Official Information Act Request request.

The types of animals bred in NZ

The following species were bred to be used for research, testing or teaching purposes in 2018: 

  • Sheep
  • Cows
  • Goats
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Fish
  • Pigs
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Other birds
  • Fowls/chickens
  • Guinea pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Horses
  • Amphibia
  • Possums
  • Reptiles

This may not be a complete list – it’s only the information that we could obtain via the animal usage forms supplied to us by MPI from an Official Information Act Request request.

Missing information 

Some species were bred to suffer in the thousands such as 21,024 mice, 9,731 rats, 7,885 fish and 2,670 sheep.

These numbers may however not be accurate, as the animal research industry is shrouded in secrecy and some animal research institutes do not make their animal usage figures public. In fact, of the 146 institutes that are allowed to use animals or 'code holders', we know 25 code holders did not make their animal usage figures known to the public.

Code holders not making their animal usage figures publicly available include:

  • Lincoln University
  • Bayer NZ
  • Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
  • PGG Wrightson Seeds Ltd
  • NZ Merino Company Ltd

In total, the 25 code holders that withheld their information from the public, used 29,449 animals that were bred to be used in science. We, therefore, don't get to know anything more about these 29,449 animals. 

Where the breeding units are located

This is one of the problems – due to how well hidden this industry is, we don’t know for sure where all the breeding units are!

From an Official Information Act request we sent out in 2014, we know that the following institutes had their own breeding unit during 2012 – 2014:

  • Massey University (they bred sheep, cats and rats)
  • University of Auckland (mice, rats, guinea pigs and zebrafish)
  • AUT (mice)
  • Victoria University (rats, mice, and tuatara)
  • University of Waikato (chickens)
  • University of Canterbury (rats)
  • University of Otago (mice, rats guinea pigs)
  • AgResearch (mice, rats, goats and cows)

We can’t be certain that this is still the case. Also, this list doesn’t include any of the private breeding facilities, where these are located remains a secret!

What we do know is where the institutes are located that can use animals for research, testing and teaching purposes (code holders). Some of these institutes will have their own breeding units on their property and others will purchase animals from private breeding facilities. In 2018 there were 146 code holders, you can find out more here.

What the breeding units look like

Due to the high level of secrecy that this industry has, we do not know what all breeding units look like. However, as an indication, check out the photos of AgResearch’s animal housing taken in 2014 below. 

Mouse room:

mouse room - web

SPF (Specific Pathogen Free – this is a term used to describe animals that are guaranteed to be free of certain diseases e.g. influenza) area:

SPF area - web

Rat room:

rat room - web

What happens to unwanted animals? 

When animals are bred to be used for research, testing and teaching purposes, it is impossible to breed the exact number of animals required. Excess, unwanted animals are just a standard part of the breeding process and it is up to the institute to decide what they do with excess animals.

We have made it clear to al institutes that we are willing and able to help (in collaboration with our friends at HUHA) but there is no mandatory requirement for institutes to try and rehome animals.

We have a waitlist that we can add people to who are interested in adopting animals who have been used for research, testing or teaching purposes.

To be added to the waitlist, send the following information to us via email:

  • What type of animal(s) would you be interested in adopting and how many?
  • Where are you based?
  • What is your email address?
  • What is your full name?

To clarify, we don't currently have any animals needing homes, but we want to be prepared for when we get offered any from facilities around NZ who use animals for research, testing or teaching. This doesn’t happen often, unfortunately.


Further reading