The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released the latest figures for the use of animals in research, testing and teaching. The 2016 statistics reflect the number of animals used in studies that were completed during the year and reported to MPI.
MPI manager of animal welfare, Kate Littin says the recently released statistics showed a total of 254,453 animals were used in research, testing and teaching in 2016, up 13% on the record low achieved in 2015.
"The increase for 2016 is mainly due to more livestock used for veterinary research, testing and teaching,” says Dr Littin.
"It was good to see there has been a decrease in the number of animals that died or were euthanised, and that the number of animals that returned to owners or were released to the wild was up compared to previous years.
"The number of animals that were rehomed was similar to last year.
"While rehoming may not always be appropriate for all animals, there are groups that will work with research organisations to rehome animals, and we encourage organisations to do this wherever possible.
"We take our role in protecting the welfare of animals used in research, teaching, and testing very seriously. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 requires a code of ethical conduct to be approved by MPI before any animals are used for research, testing and teaching.
"Each project must be scrutinised and approved by an animal ethics committee that has been established under the code. These committees must ensure that the potential cost to the animals is outweighed by the potential or actual benefits gained from the work, before approving it to go ahead.
"Animal ethics committees also assess a range of considerations guided by the Three Rs, the internationally accepted principles of humane experimental technique," Dr Littin says.
The Three Rs
- Replacement of animals with a less sentient or non-sentient alternative wherever possible.
- Reduction in the numbers of animals to the minimum necessary to achieve a result.
- Refinement of procedures as well as of animal environments to minimise pain or distress.
Key statistics in the report
- In 2016, 26 institutions carried out research under their own approved codes of ethical conduct, and 109 under another organisation's approved code.
- Livestock accounted for almost 65% of the animals used, reflecting the agricultural nature of much of New Zealand's research, testing, and teaching.
- Cattle were the most commonly reported species making up 41% of the total number, followed by sheep at 19%, mice at 13% and fish at 8%.
- Most animals underwent procedures which had no impact or little impact on them, at nearly 84% of the total number.
- The number of animals that experienced 'high' or 'very high' impact in 2016 changed with the number of animals in the 'high' impact category increasing by 11.9% and the number within the 'very high' impact decreasing by 35.3%.
- Of the animals categorised in the 'high' and 'very high' impact categories, most were rodents and rabbits (6,897 out of 8,596). These animals were classified in these impact grades largely due to use in vaccine testing, veterinary research, and production and evaluation of biological reagents and other medical research detailed in the report.
- There was a decrease in the number of animals that died or were euthanised, with the number of animals that were returned to owners or released to the wild up compared to the previous year. The number of animals rehomed or sent to others was similar to last year.
Download the report [PDF, 903 KB]