Unversity kills 25,000 primitive animals during research

Unversity kills 25,000 primitive animals during research

25,000 animals died in University of Otago research and teaching projects between 2009 and 2010. This number is expected to increase significantly, as statistics from 2011 are yet to be released.

A recent Otago Daily Times article pushed the issue into the public sphere when it published figures showing that in just two years, departments within the University had used an estimated 53,334 animals for the purposes of teaching and research. Additionally, it was revealed that the survival rate of these animals in 2009 was 62%, while in 2010 it was a mere 16%.

A veritable Noah’s Ark of animals including pigeons, reptiles, possums and fish are used to conduct the research and teaching activities. A University spokesperson stated that the “knowledge gained from animal-based studies helps scientists better understand how the body works, and hence there are major benefits to be gained for the welfare and wellbeing of both animals and humans.”

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 governs the use of animals in research and teaching, and also controls testing. The University was quick to stress however that they do not conduct tests on animals. The Act has “very strict” guidelines, and the University employs a fulltime lab veterinarian to oversee the treatment of the animals that are used. In addition the University told Critic that “animals used in research must go through a rigorous approval process with the University Animal Ethics Committee. This Committee also strictly controls and monitors the research.”

Despite the University’s emphasis that animals are only used if it has been determined that non-animal options are not viable, animal rights groups such as SAFE argue that this excuse is neither acceptable nor truthful. Dunedin SAFE members told Critic that although the number of animals killed during research and teaching purposes did not surprise them, they are “outraged” that the use of animals for these purposes is still occurring at all.

Campaigns director for SAFE Hans Kriek said SAFE was calling for a national moratorium on the use of animals in New Zealand for research. The group also indicated that they believed the reason why 2011 statistics were yet to be released was because they may show that animal deaths in research and teaching purposes had further increased between 2010 and 2011.

Kriek further challenged the use of animals for research and teaching purposes saying, “If there is nothing wrong with animal research stand up and be proud of it”.

SAFE indicated that they would be issuing a press release on the issue to create further public discussion and awareness about the use of animals in research, not only at Otago University but also at all tertiary institutions throughout the country.
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2012.
Posted 6:37pm Sunday 11th March 2012 by Margot Taylor.