The University of Otago's Poor Excuses

The University of Otago's Poor Excuses

At the end of last year, we ran our biggest exposé ever with the University of Otago right at the very center! Over 12 days of Christmas we exposed gruesome experiments that they had conducted on animals – from electrocuting bees to drilling holes into the heads of guinea pigs and draining blood from sheep.

This exposé gained A LOT of exposure and had the University of Otago making ridiculous excuses to the media:


“They [the University of Otago] strongly refuted claims they were not committed to reducing the amount of animals used in testing.” – from an article by Stuff.

The problem with this excuse is that when we look at how many animals, they are using for science each year, the numbers are actually increasing over time…








Number of animals used for research, testing,

and teaching by the University of Otago.






The information above was obtained via multiple OIA requests to the Ministry for Primary Industries.


“But the university says at least some of the society's allegations are based on old experiments, no longer performed at the university” – from an article by Newstalk ZB.

Old experiments no longer happening? Well… here’s a list of experiments recently conducted by the University of Otago that are just as gruesome as the ones exposed last year.

A few examples of experiments approved by the University of Otago’s Animal Ethics Committee that were published in 2021:


  • Healthy mice injected with cancer to investigate why a treatment has such a low success rate (in humans): Mice were injected with cancer cells. The growth was monitored, biopsied at a certain stage and after treating half the mice for 3 weeks, all were killed.1
  • Mice were made to have seizures and had electrodes implanted into their brains: Genetically modified mice had wires and a cannula implanted in their brains and were medically induced to have seizures.2
  • Genetically modified mice were killed by flushing their hearts or breaking their necks to try and study epilepsy: Genetically modified mice were bred to produce offspring with specific genetic limitations. Some were killed just for dissection; others were injected with seizure-inducing drugs before they were killed.3
  • Pregnant rats were injected to induce “schizophrenia” in their babies: Pregnant rats were injected to alter the brain development of their litters. Some pups were allowed to grow to 3 months of age, put in plastic containers, and their calls to each other were recorded.4
  • Rats were purposely bred with “diabetes”: Rats were anaesthetised, put in a stereotaxic frame, and had their skulls drilled open to inject colchicine (gout medication). After surgery, they were anaesthetised again, their hearts were perfused, and their brains were removed.5
  • Mice had brain “windows” implanted while they are awake: Transgenic and non-transgenic mice had a part of their brain-damaged and a window put into their skull to take recordings of their brains' reaction to stimuli. For at least 15 days, they were deprived of water most of the time and put into a device immobilising their head for 25min each day. Sometimes, they’d get puffed in the face with air, sometimes they had to hold a lever that would occasionally vibrate. Sometimes both. They’d get water once the session was over. In the end, all were killed.6
  • Mice were tested for “maternal motivation” by leaving 2-day old mice out in the open: Mice were put in a T-Maze Pup Retrieval Test where three foster pups (2–7 days old) were placed in an open tube for the adult mouse to retrieve. The Barrier Climbing Test was also conducted on mice where a barrier was placed between the adult mouse and three foster pups (2-7 days old) for her to retrieve. Some transgenic mice were tested for anxiety behaviour in the standard elevated-plus-maze, too.7


The evidence is clear, the University of Otago has no desire to change their ways – they are committing to conducting cruel animal experiments.

While we can see the University of Otago as a lost cause, we can’t stop there – animals cannot continue to suffer just because institutes with archaic mindsets don’t want to progress forward. In fact, their lack of progress is what inspired our biggest campaign yet – our important Striking at the Source campaign!

Striking at the Source

Next month we'll be handing over our Striking at the Source petition to Parliament, with over 20K signatures already, it's set to make a huge impact for animals used in science

This petition is asking the NZ Government to develop a comprehensive action plan to help end unnecessary animal experimentation and embrace better technologies.

With several crucial changes to the core of the industry, we believe that we will be able to turn things around and start seeing a significant decrease in the number of animals used at the same time as seeing an increase in the amount of high-quality research that we are producing. The core changes fall under the following 3 categories:

  1. Better allocation of funding
  2. Greater openness and transparency
  3. Stronger laws

Find out more and sign the petition here!