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27 June 1997
1996 saw the first individual prosecuted for a breach of New Zealand's Animals Protection (Codes of Ethical Conduct) Regulations which govern the use of animals for
teaching and research purposes.
The prosecuted individual was convicted on five charges of conducting experimental work on animals without an approved code of ethical conduct, which is a breach of the Animals Protection Act. He now faces further charges.
The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) released its annual report today.
The New Zealand Animals Protection (Codes of Ethical Conduct) Regulations govern what researchers using animals can and cannot do. In New Zealand researchers, and institutions, such as schools and universities, submit codes of ethical conduct to NAEAC, which considers whether they should be approved by the Minister of Agriculture.
The codes require the establishment of an institutional animal ethics committee to which written proposals must be made stating the achievable aim of the research proposed, the experiment's benefits, details of the animals to be used and the impact of the experiment on the animal. A cost-benefit analysis has to be done, and show evidence of how pain and suffering will be alleviated or eliminated during the procedure. Dubious and poorly designed experiments are challenged.
Since its formation ten years ago, NAEAC has seen a growing public concern about the control of the use of live animals for research, testing and teaching purposes.
"However, there is a willing acceptance by the majority of those engaged in the use of animals that a reasonable measure of control is appropriate in the interests of animal welfare, and that the codes of ethical conduct under which they are now obliged to work provides that discipline," says Keith Robinson, chairman of AEAC.
NAEAC was established in 1984, but it was not until 1987 that the regulations under which it operates were made. The committee provides independent, quality advice to the Minister of Agriculture on policy and practices relating to the use of animals in research, testing and teaching. Members are appointed in a personal capacity, but are nominated by national bodies from a variety of disciplines, including schools, local government, research groups, veterinarians, health researchers and the RNZSPCA. Members are appointed for a three year term.
Mr Robinson says issues have become more complex since NAEAC was first formed. Advances in genetic technology and the transplantation of tissues between humans and animals raise ethical issues. However, in respect of animal use, these issues do not basically differ from those arising from other animal manipulation. The concern is the welfare of the animal, which is safeguarded by the application of the same principles used for the past ten years, but, he says, it will be necessary for institutional ethics committees to acquire an appreciation of the new science involved.
For further information or a copy of NAEAC's annual report contact:
PO Box 2526,
or phone: (04)4744296 or fax: (04)4744133.