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13 September 2006
A national survey into New Zealanders' attitudes towards the use of
animals in research, testing and teaching (RTT), commissioned by the Ministry
of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), has provided important new information about
what New Zealanders really think about the use of animals in RTT.
The survey investigated New Zealanders' awareness and interest in the
use of animals for RTT purposes and the levels of support and attitudes towards
this use of animals. Awareness of the regulation of the use of animals in
RTT and the degree of confidence held in the Animal Welfare Act 1999 was also
Overall the level of interest in RTT is low. Only 33% of respondents
expressed an interest in the issue generally and the majority agreed that the
use of animals for teaching (72%) and research and testing (68%) was acceptable
as long as there was no unnecessary animal suffering.
"We wanted to canvas views on the use of animals in RTT and establish
precisely what the New Zealand public want to know about such animal
use," says Dr Virginia Williams, MAF veterinary adviser.
"This is the first New Zealand study of this kind. It was seen
as important in ensuring that current practice and legislation pertaining to
the use of animals in RTT meets societal expectations for the welfare and
humane treatment of animals."
The main reason respondents were concerned was because they felt that
animals would suffer, while the main reason they were unconcerned was because
they felt it was necessary to protect human health. Respondents were more
likely to find that animal use was justified if it was for research into
life-threatening diseases such as cancers.
The regulation of the use of animals in RTT is not well understood.
Only 21% of respondents declared an awareness of any rules and regulations and
only 37% of those declared they knew a lot about the legislation.
While around half of the respondents felt less comfortable with RTT when
they learned about the number of animals used each year in New Zealand, nearly
three quarters of them felt more comfortable when the membership of an animal
ethics committee (AEC) was explained to them. There was also strong
evidence that respondents supported the balanced make up of the AECs and were
reassured by having an SPCA representative and veterinarian on committees.
"There will always be those that do not condone the use of animals in
RTT, just as there will be those that are not concerned by it. This study
shows that there is a need to ease public concerns through the provision of
factual information about the regulatory system in New Zealand and the
realities of the use of animals in RTT," Dr Williams said.
An independent telephone survey of 750 people throughout New Zealand was
conducted between 30 June and 7 July 2005 by independent research company, UMR
Research Ltd. The survey is considered to be representative of the
country as a whole.
The survey was conducted in four parts. Part one collected demographic
information and asked respondents whether they were, or had ever been, active
supporters of an animal welfare or animal rights organisation, whether they
were or had ever been a parent, had children at school and whether they had a
pet. Part two collected information about awareness and interest in the
use of animals for research and testing purposes and separately for use in
teaching. Part three looked at attitudes to the use of animals in RTT and
the level of concern or lack of concern about such use and part four explored
awareness of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
Media contact: Helen Keyes, Senior Communications Adviser,
04 894 0161 or 029 894 0161.