Institute wins award for research that improves welfare of sheep used in animal testing

20 November 2009

A senior researcher at the University of Auckland's Liggins Institute has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Three Rs award.

Dr Mark Oliver receives the award in recognition of his long-term work on the refinement of indoor physiological studies of sheep, which has improved animal welfare.

NAEAC selected Dr Oliver's work from several high calibre nominations. The committee considered Dr Oliver's work to refine the feeding and housing of sheep to have far-reaching effects, with a focus on reduction and refinement of animal use.

The concept of the Three Rs, from which the award takes its name, is to replace live animal subjects, reduce the number of animals used and refine experimental techniques to minimise pain and distress.

"The Three Rs are the cornerstone of the ethical use of animals in research, testing and teaching," said NAEAC chairperson, Dr Virginia Williams. "This award celebrates achievements in the implementation of the Three Rs and promotes the concept within the scientific community and to the wider public."

"Dr Oliver's refinements in the preparation and management of sheep for indoor research demonstrate a responsible and humane approach to the use of animals in science".

Dr Oliver has been instrumental in such innovations as the design of a specialised concentrate feed for sheep in long term indoor housing, a pre-trial programme that includes individual observation of sheep, and nutritional manipulation of pregnant sheep to measure effects on the foetus. With animals individually managed, in their own pens on a well balanced diet, undernutrition can be managed by assessing weight change and altering feeds. This allows superior monitoring of animal welfare and the reduction of adverse complications developing in animals with higher dietary demands.

This national award is co-ordinated by NAEAC and is made to an individual, group or institution within New Zealand that epitomises best practice with regard to the Three Rs.

The award was presented at the Royal Society of New Zealand's annual Science Honours Dinner in Auckland on Wednesday night.

Media contact:

  • Lisa Gibbison, Senior Communications Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
    Phone 04 894 0432 / 029 894 0432, Email:

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