University of Otago animal research centre opposed by animal rights activists

On May 11 the University of Otago announced plans to build a $50 million animal research centre on campus. 

The SPCA have actively opposed the plans, with the New Zealand chief executive explaining that animal testing causes unnecessary pain and suffering. He told the Otago Daily Times that there are “viable alternatives” such as using “cell, tissue and organ cultures, human volunteers and computer modelling.” 

Tayla O’Driscoll, a member of the Vegan and Animal Rights Society (VARS) here on campus, brought up the Three Rs: Replacement of methods for animal testing, Reducing the amount of animal testing, and Refining the methods of animal testing so as to minimise suffering. The Three Rs are advocated by animal rights activists, the Ministry for Primary Industries and The Animal Welfare Act 1999. 

O’Driscoll said that “the University of Otago needs to focus on moving away from animal testing methods” and that “if the university take the Three Rs seriously, they should invest their money by creating a facility that looks for alternatives to animal testing.”

“Their decision to build a new animal testing facility shows backwards thinking and absolutely no regard or concern for the wellbeing of animals,” said O’Driscoll. “By spending 50 million on a new facility, Otago obviously sees this decision as an investment in the indefinite future of animal testing.”

SAFE also argues that building the animal research facility indicates “a commitment from the university to test on animals for years to come” and urges the university to “move out of the dark ages” by using modern technology and alternative methods as a way of testing.

However, the university is standing by plans to build the centre. University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor for research and enterprise Professor Richard Blaikie said that the centre was purely to replace existing, old and rundown animal research facilities. He said that the new centre would give the “highest standard of care” for the the animals used, and that the new building would not increase the number of animals involved in research. 

Blaikie said that “The Research Support Facility (RSF) will provide an environment to meet that care, complementing the stringent ethical criteria applied by the university to all animal research before it is initiated and including the principles of reduction, replacement and refinement where possible.’’

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2016.
Posted 10:33am Sunday 22nd May 2016 by Laura Starling.