Stop the Otago Animal Labs


In 2016, the University of Otago announced that they would be building a new $50,000,000 animal research facility. As reported by staff, they already have the largest laboratory animal facility in New Zealand.

This announcement brought the University of Otago to the front of our attention. We were shocked that while other universities around the world were out-phasing invasive animal use for research, testing and teaching (RTT,) that one of our own "great" universities would decide to entrench further in out-dated, inaccurate and inhumane methods of RTT.


The University of Otago needs to change the type of research, testing and teaching methods happening inside ALL their laboratories to non-animal-based methods and technology.


The University of Otago used 17,977 animals in 2017 alone and the majority (14,471) were killed. Rats, mice, cats, dogs, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, fish – the list goes on for the different animals they use.

Uni should be pain-free for everyone, there is no need for animals to be tortured and killed.


Sign our petition to the University of Otago encouraging them to lead New Zealand forward by no longer using animals for research, testing and teaching!


Note: On desktop the petition is at the top right-hand side of this page, on mobile it is near the bottom of the page, click here to scroll to the form.



Students should learn without harming anyone, which also allows them to receive the most up-to-date education.

The Animals in Science Policy Institute has compiled a comprehensive list of 50 studies comparing animal dissection versus alternative methods in terms of their educational merit. Result? 19 studies showed students who used alternative methods outperformed those who performed dissections, 27 studies found students demonstrated equivalent teaching efficacy of animal and non-animal methods, yet only 4 studies showed superior educational merit when using animal dissection teaching methods.                                                                                                                                                                          In summary, 92% of studies resulted in students learning better or equivalently when using the alternative methods instead of animal dissection.

When students are forced to learn in ways that they consider harmful, painful, stressful or lethal to an animal, their cognitive abilities can be impaired which results in less productive learning. Some students may also suffer psychological trauma which may cause them to choose different career and study options so they can avoid being in these situations.

The USA and Canada have now ended animal use for training purposes in all undergraduate medical school courses. While other first world countries are progressing forward in their student training, the University of Otago has so far chosen to stay with what they are familiar with, using the same animal-based methods to teach their students that have been around for decades. We know it would be greatly beneficial to the university and their students if they were to adapt to implementing the most advanced and optimal teaching methods and technologies.



The University of Otago wants you to believe they are performing ‘humane’ research on animals and this is necessary for finding lifesaving treatments for humans. They say this new facility will “advance research in areas including cancer, diabetes, obesity, fertility and neuroscience.”

Accurate science starts with accurate models, and we are not 70kg rats. Using animals to predict the human response is fundamentally flawed, therefore this claim is misleading. Animal-based research performed with the intent of creating cures and treatments for human illnesses is unreliable, most often inapplicable and downright dangerous.  

Animals bodies can’t predict the human body response because of the various genetic, physiological and metabolic differences between them and us. It is obvious why you don’t take your pet to your GP, and why a vet will not examine a human. So why is it so hard for the University of Otago to understand that researching on a different species for another is senseless and inefficient?

For example:

Research using animals for advancing diabetes research hasn’t worked for humans. In 2006, the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) announced that after over thirty years of experiments on mice and rats, researchers discovered that the internal structure and function of the human pancreatic islet cell, which is central to the development of diabetes, are dramatically different from that in the “well-studied rodent”. DRI now consider the use of the rodent model as “no longer relevant for human studies.” They state:

“We can no longer rely on studies on mice and rats. It is now imperative that we focus on human islets. At the end of the day, it is the only way to understand how they function.” Read more

Another example:

Animal-based research methods for advancing research for cancer hasn’t worked for humans either. The use of mice for cancer research has been going on for over forty years and it has developed many cures for cancers in mice but it is not producing corresponding results in humans.

“We cure cancer in mice and rats… we do it all the time, but these animal models are not human beings. Human beings are much more complex.” – Dr Patric Schiltz, a cancer researcher. Read more


If their bodies are the lab tools, everyone suffers.

Not only is animal-based research holding us back from finding potential cures, it is also harming humans. The most famous example is the thalidomide example which left over 10,000 babies deformed. This happened because animal experiments didn’t accurately predict the human response. 

Here is a whole list of cases where animal-based research failed to predict human reactions. 


Claims of humane treatment

The University of Otago has also emphasised that their new facility will provide the “highest standard of care for the animals used in research.”

Despite this leading you to believe that these animals will live a life free from pain, fear and harm, the reality is these animals are treated as nothing more than disposable laboratory tools. The University of Otago is very secretive about their animal experiments because they know the public would be horrified to learn what the university does to vulnerable innocent beings.  They know their institute would be vastly opposed if the public knew.

Keep in mind, this is the same university that shot live pigs in the head to study blood spatter patterns - even though pigs are fundamentally different to humans, especially regarding their skull! 

Or the same university that has their Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) approve implanting devices into rat’s brains, then inducing high-level seizures while conscious.

Saying you will treat animals humanely and then conduct highly invasive experiments on them is nothing but ironic and blatantly untruthful.


Non-Animal Based Research Solutions

We advocate human-based research, which involves sophisticated tests that use human cells and tissues, advanced computer-modelling techniques and humane studies with human volunteers, like micro-dosing.

Amazing methods exist that are not only humane but are also reliable and accurate, unlike animal models, such as organ on a chip or living, metabolically active 3D tissue models.

A recent example of human-based research being more successful than animal experimentation is the new HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate that was developed by looking at people that naturally don’t progress to AIDS from HIV. Researchers expect that this would work in around 95% of people. Decades of work has already been completed using primates to try and develop a vaccine for HIV. Researchers have found over 100 vaccines that worked in chimpanzees, yet not one of these worked in humans.  Think of not just the suffering and eventual death that occurred to these sentient primates, but also consider how many human lives could have been saved over those years if human-based research had been used.

There are many organisations around the world that are working hard performing non-animal-based research to develop drugs, cures and new ways of testing the safety of these products. Such examples are AltToxWYSS InstituteMatTek and ARDF.

To read more on non-animal/human based methods go here.




We want the University of Otago to be the best it can be, and that will happen when they make the change to being an animal-free RTT institution, which will allow them to implement the most advanced and optimal methods. 

Experimenting on animals has obvious ethical issues, and the scientific evidence is overwhelming that using an animals body to predict how our human body will respond is highly inaccurate. If the University of Otago would take the plunge into non-animal-based research, it could be a world-leading innovator in medical research.

Students should never be made to cross their own ethical boundaries and they deserve to receive the most relevant and advanced education available.

The University of Otago is capable of becoming the first university in NZ to be completely invasive animal research, testing and teaching free.


We know it is something they can achieve. With your support, we can help the University of Otago to make a positive change for animals, people and science!


Sign the Petition Now!

Let the University of Otago know you want them to lead New Zealand forward by no longer using animals for research, testing and teaching!

Let them hear your encouragement for an improved university.

Note: On desktop the petition is at the top right-hand side of this page; on mobile it is near the bottom of the page, click here to scroll to the form.




Other organisations against the University of Otago's choice to entrench further in animal experimentation



Quote from Humane Society International’s Letter to the University of Otago:

“We strongly urge the university to re-examine the proposal for the animal facility and to consider repurposing its available funding toward the development of a cutting-edge Centre for Excellence in Human Based Biomedicine, a first for the country, and a feather in the cap of Otago University.”

Read more here



SPCA New Zealand Chief Executive Ric Odom stated:

“There are now viable alternatives – including the use of cell, tissue, and organ cultures, human volunteers and computer modelling – that should enable New Zealand institutions to be actively reducing the amount of experimentation carried out on sentient animals rather than ramping it up.”

Read more here 


Quote from Beagle Freedom Project’s letter to the University of Otago:

“Instead of spending $50 million on an animal testing facility, we urge you to spend that on alternatives, which will be more accurate and save money in the long run. We are demanding that you NOT build the Otago Animal Lab.”

Read more here





Humane Research Australia’s official statement on University of Otago’s new animal laboratory:

“Spending NZD 50 million on a new animal research facility is an absolute travesty – not only for the animals used in cruel experiments but also for the ailing humans who are clinging on to the false hope that animal research will provide them with the cures they so desperately need. Humane R esearch Australia urges Otago University to divert these funds to more ethical and scientifically-valid methods of research. To proceed with the new animal research facility will be a huge step backwards in medical progress."

Read more here




PETA’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“The fact that the species most often used in laboratory experiments are chosen largely for non-scientific reasons, such as cost and ease of handling, casts further doubt on the validity of this research. PETA supports the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society’s ‘Stop the Otago Animal Lab’ campaign.”

Read more here




Animal Aid’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“Animal Aid was successful in halting plans by the University of Cambridge for a huge extension to their animal research facilities and we hope the NZAVS will prevail in this campaign. In the twenty-first century those interested in genuine scientific progress should be investing in humane, non-animal methods, not the archaic and outdated ‘science’ that is animal research.”

Read more here



SAFE’s official statement on animal research at the University of Otago:

“SAFE supports the campaign to ‘Stop the Otago Animal Labs.’ Using animals in experiments is not only cruel, it has been well documented as bad science and belongs in the history books. An animal can never replicate the human model and New Zealand has a great opportunity to be world leaders in more effective advancements using modern technology."  — CEO of  SAFE NZ, Debra Ashton.

Read more here




It is clear that there isn't just nationwide opposition to the University of Otago's disappointing decision to invest $50 million into a new animal laboratory, but there is also growing global opposition to the University of Otago's further entrenchment in archaic animal experimentation.

The world is watching you Otago, make the right decision for animals, people and for science!







Sign the petition

Help animals, people and science - Sign the Petition Today!

To the University of Otago,

In 2017 alone, you used 17,977 animals for research, testing and teaching (RTT) and a majority of those you killed.

We strongly oppose your choice to build a new $50mil animal laboratory where thousands more animals will be harmed and die in the name of fundamentally flawed science. Ethical, human-relevant research and testing should be your focus instead.

Uni should be pain-free for everyone and forcing students to learn by harming animals is not only unjustified, it is also counterproductive for student learning.

Please make the positive change to become a humane education institute.


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Stop the Otago Animal Labs Update!
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Humane Society International Writes to the University of Otago
Stop the Otago Animal Lab Campaign Update!
Our Campaign Manager visited Dunedin recently to work on our Stop the Otago Animal Lab campaign! Check out our campaign updates here.
I'd Vote YES!
We're asking #StopTheOtagoAnimalLab supporters all around the nation to support the student referendum and let the University know that they'd vote YES if they could!
Student Referendum at the University of Otago Now Open!
The Otago University Students' Association Referendum opens today! This year they have included a question on the $50 million animal lab! We're
Physics Professor’s Animal Testing Claims Rejected
What we have to say to Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Richard Blaikie's false claims.
The New $50 Million Animal Lab at the University of Otago Delayed by Asbestos Find!
Asbestos has been discovered at the new animal lab site! This means the project will be delayed, but will also cost even more money! How much is the University willing to spend on outdated and non-predictive research methods?
Groups Around the Globe Want to Stop the Otago Animal Lab Too!
It isn't just NZAVS who is opposed to the University of Otago building a new $50 million animal lab - Check out the many other groups who have something to say about it!
NZAVS Celebrates World Day for Lab Animals by Marching to Stop the Otago Animal Lab!
NZAVS were out in Dunedin today marching against the new $50 million animal lab at the University of Otago! We were even joined by celebrity animal-rights activist James Aspey!
Happy Valentines Day Action to Stop the Otago Animal Lab



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