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An Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand

The New Zealand Board of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART), a Committee of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, has supported the development of an Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching for New Zealand. A draft version of the Agreement went out for consultation in 2020/21.

New Zealand has long been committed to maintaining and improving high standards of animal welfare as well as undertaking world-leading research and teaching using animals. Those involved in research have an obligation to demonstrate and promote these values, and in order to be seen as trustworthy they must be open, transparent, and accountable for the research and teaching that they conduct, fund or support, including when the high standards they strive for are not achieved. Doing more to communicate the context in which animal research and teaching takes place, the work that organisations undertake to incorporate the Three Rs (the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of animals), the regulations that govern this research, and the systems that are in place to report and rectify poor practice is key.

The objective of this Agreement is to ensure that the public are well informed about what animal research involves, the role it plays in the overall process of scientific discovery, how such research is regulated in New Zealand, and what researchers and animal care staff do to promote welfare, reduce animal usage and minimise suffering and harm to the animals.

Several countries have now implemented (or are actively working on) formal ‘openness agreements’ to improve public understanding of animal research. Under such agreements, stakeholders make a public pledge to be more open about their involvement in animal research and explain details and reasons underlying it. The European Animal Research Association has several examples of openness agreements. The longest established openness agreement is the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. The UK Concordat has operated successfully since 2014 and now has over 120 signatories representing leading universities, research institutes, government agencies, funders and industry.