Information for the public
Animals in research, testing, and teaching in New Zealand
Animal use in research, testing and teaching in New Zealand is strictly controlled under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Any person or organisation using animals must follow an approved code of ethical conduct, which sets out the policies and procedures that must be followed by the organisation and its animal ethics committee. Further information about the regulation of animal research is available from the Ministry of Primary Industries.
Records of the annual numbers of animals used in research, testing and teaching have been collected since 1987, and record animals that have had manipulations involving the normal physiological, behavioural, or anatomical integrity of the animal by deliberately subjecting it to a procedure which is unusual or abnormal when compared with that to which animals of that type would be subjected under normal management or practice. This can involve exposing the animal to any parasite, micro-organism, drug, chemical, biological product, radiation, electrical stimulation, or environmental condition; or enforced activity, restraint, nutrition, or surgical intervention; or depriving the animal of usual care.
From 1 January 2018, the definition of ‘manipulation’ will expand to include the killing of an animal for research, testing or teaching on its body or tissues, and the breeding or producing offspring that have potentially compromised welfare due to breeding (for example, to research some hereditary medical conditions). All animals reported in this new category are required to be treated with the same duty of care as animals used for research and teaching. Reasons for animals being bred but not used might include:
- Wrong sex for the specific research project (this is because the sex ratio of offspring can often not be controlled prior to birth).
- Creating or maintaining genetically altered lines (not all offspring have the required genetic alteration).
- Number bred was over and above what was needed (exact size of litters or number of offspring born are usually unpredictable).
- Sufficient numbers are needed to sustain animal colonies, as well as ensure adequate diversity and sufficient timely supply for research and teaching purposes.
- ‘Sentinel animals’ used for health screening of other animals in the laboratory, whose condition hints towards any subtle health issues in the lab that could widely impact other animals’ welfare.
The animals can also be useful after death in teaching and training, or by storing tissues from the animals which can be used in future research. This may reduce the number of animals that need to be bred and used in future.
The definition of animal, however, varies from country to country:
- In New Zealand it includes any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, octopus, squid, crab, lobster, or crayfish, including any mammalian foetus, or any avian or reptilian pre-hatched young, that is in the last half of its period of gestation or development, but excludes any animal in the pre-natal, pre-hatched, larval, or other such developmental stage (other than those indicated previously). Marsupial pouch young are also considered animals.
- In Australia it includes any fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and cephalopods, but with some variation by state. In some States it also extends to lobsters, crabs or crayfish. In South Australia, a license is not required to use fish for research purposes.
- In the US, it includes warm-blooded animals, but excludes birds, rats and mice bred for use in research.
- In the EU, it includes live vertebrate animals and cephalopods, including independently feeding larval forms and foetal forms of mammals.
Institutional Codes of Ethical Conduct under animal welfare legislation
Before institutions in New Zealand are permitted to use animals for research, testing or teaching, they must apply for a licence from the government. The licence is called a ‘Code of Ethical Conduct’. This system is unique to New Zealand. Each institutional Code sets out the conditions and rules for animal use. Codes vary between organisations, depending upon the nature of the scientific activity. These Codes offer insights into how organisations value animals used for scientific or teaching purposes. In the interests of transparency, ANZCCART has requested that these codes be made available for public scrutiny. In response to our request, the institutional codes of ethical conduct approved by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2015 now are available from the FYI website, with additional codes available here.
ANZCCART is supporting the adoption of the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting the findings of research projects using animals, and the PREPARE guidelines for planning research using animals. More information on these guidelines can be found here.
ANZCCART supports and encourages the rehoming of research animals as an alternative to euthanasia, wherever possible.