The Ministry for Primary Industries has released the latest figures for the use of animals in research, testing and teaching.
MPI Director Animal and Animal Products, Paul Dansted says recently released statistics on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching in 2015 showed a 27.4% decrease from the previous year.
"225,310 animals were used in research, testing and teaching in 2015 which is 84,977 fewer than the previous year. The rolling 3-year average, at 253,215, is at its lowest under the Animal Welfare Act 1999," he says.
"There are strict controls around the use of animals for research, testing and teaching. These controls are designed to prevent unnecessary pain and distress to animals and ensure any cost to the animals must be outweighed by the potential or actual benefits to be gained from the work," says Dr Dansted.
"The Animal Welfare Act 1999 requires a code of ethical conduct be approved by MPI. In 2015, 26 institutions had codes of ethical conduct approved.
"Each project must be scrutinised and approved by an animal ethics committee that has been established under the code.
"These committees assess a range of considerations guided by the three Rs", the internationally accepted principles of humane experimental technique," he says.
The three Rs are:
- reduction in the numbers of animals to the minimum necessary to achieve a result
- replacement of animals with a less sentient or non-sentient alternative wherever possible
- refinement of procedures as well as of animal environments to minimise pain or distress.
"These controls recognise that although compromised care and some pain and distress may result in significant benefits to people, other animals or the environment, such use carries with it significant responsibilities and strict legislative obligations," says Dr Dansted.
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- The 2015 statistics reflect the number of animals used in studies that were completed during the year and reported to MPI.
- The most commonly reported species in 2015, as it was in 2014, was cattle, making up 63% of the farm animals used, and 26.3% of the total number.
- Mice were again the second most common species in 2015, making up 21.5% of the total.
- Fish (18.1%) and sheep (10.4%) were the third and fourth most commonly used species.
- In terms of species groupings, production animals (cattle, sheep, deer, goats and pigs) made up 41.8% of the total, with rodents and rabbits together accounting for 27.2%.
- The fall in numbers in 2015 was reflected in all species except other birds, reptiles, amphibia, fish, pigeons, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses and pigs.
- Veterinary research (39.5%), animal husbandry research (20.2%), teaching (19.5%) and basic biological research (18.3%) were the main reasons for using production animals, accounting for 91,654 animals.
- Nearly 90% of the rodents were used in medical research, testing the safety and efficacy of animal health products and basic biological research. The majority (79.1%) of birds were "other" birds, 66.8% of which were used in environmental management research.