Protestors March Against Construction of Animal Testing Facility

A recent protest on University of Otago grounds saw more than 70 people voicing opposition to the construction of an animal testing facility on Great King Street.Headed by the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS), and supported by several national and international organisations, the protest was held on ‘World Day for Lab Animals’. The protestors marched in the hope of halting construction and convincing the university to commit to using the facility for non-animal based research, rather than as an animal testing facility. 

The facility is due for completion in October 2018, and various animal activism organisations have responded by committing to fighting its use as an animal testing facility for the foreseeable future. 

Tara Jackson, Executive Director of NZAVS told Critic “We want the University of Otago to invest in the best, most reliable and accurate research—this is non-animal based and human relevant research”. 

A widely distributed petition against the facility has seen wide support from both students and Dunedin residents. An NZAVS student component has formed, the Otago Students Against Animal Testing Society (OSAATS), aimed at demonstrating student opposition to the site’s construction. 

Australian celebrity animal activist James Aspey made an appearance to show his objection to the centre. Placards used in the protests contained supportive messages and logos from 16 national and international organisations objecting to the facility. 

The $50 million investment has been shrouded in secrecy since it was announced in early August last year. The hefty investment comes in the wake of funding cuts in various other departments across campus, most notably the Division of Humanities. NZAVS argues that animal based research is increasingly becoming out-dated and “bad science”, and, according to the group, presents an unwise investment in addition to its ethical concerns. 

The university has responded by asserting their commitment to reducing the use of animal research, and finding alternatives. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie told Critic that “building the Research Support facility does not signal an extension of our animal-based research … [rather] replacing aging facilities with a modern building … [to] future proof Otago’s status as a world-class scientific institution”. 

NZAVS and OSAATS are trying to raise awareness of the issue through the upcoming OUSA referendum. A question submitted by Oska Rego, President of Students’ Animal Legal Defence Fund, will allow Otago students the opportunity to have their say. That question is: “Should OUSA lobby the university to cease development on the facility until transparent consultation on financial, ethical, and scientific value and implications of investing in animal-based research”. President of OSAATS, Azura Patterson says their focus will be on encouraging students to vote ‘Yes’ to that referendum question. The result of the referendum is non-binding. 

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2017.
Posted 10:31am Sunday 30th April 2017 by Anna Linton.