The 2019 National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) annual report has been released today, outlining what has been a busy year providing advice on the ethical and animal welfare issues arising from the use of live animals in research, testing and teaching.
Grant Shackell, chairperson of NAEAC, said much of the committee's work has been focused on enhancing transparency around animal use within the scientific community.
"We're pleased that in 2019, on our recommendation, there has been an increase in the number of research, testing and teaching organisations that have placed their approved code of ethical conduct on their public website."
NAEAC is an independent committee formed to give advice to the Minister of Agriculture on ethical and welfare issues arising from the use of animals in research, testing and teaching.
Its other functions include advising on the codes of ethical conduct that govern animal use in research, testing and teaching and providing information to the animal ethics committees that administer the codes.
One 2019 highlight for the committee was awarding the inaugural Aotearoa New Zealand Three Rs Research Grant valued at $50,000. The money provided funding for a research project that targeted the development, discovery or implementation of methodologies/technologies that specifically result in the reduction, refinement or replacement of animals used in research, testing and teaching.
In its advisory capacity, NAEAC provided input into the development of Significant Surgical Procedures regulations, with contributions largely relating to research, testing and teaching. This included making a formal submission to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as part of public consultation.
Additionally, the committee met with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor to suggest that the definition of 'animal' in relation to fish be reviewed.
"We consider that in light of current knowledge fish should be provided with protection under the Animal Welfare Act, from the point in their lifecycle at which they begin to express active behaviours indicating sentience," Mr Shackell said.
"This would allow ethical oversight of experimental work carried out on zebrafish within New Zealand and of the fish colonies used to breed experimental animals."
On the agenda this year for the committee is progressing plans for a NAEAC website where information that is available to animal ethics committees can be publicly sourced. This work will help compliment NAEAC's commitment to more effective public engagement and transparency in its processes and incorporating mātauranga Māori principles into its work going forward.