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A duty of care

Care of animals used in research, testing, or teaching goes way beyond meeting their basic needs, says Wyn Hoadley, Chairperson of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) in the 2002 Annual Report released today.

Mrs Hoadley was highlighting two publications produced by the committee to assist scientists, teachers and technicians in ensuring the welfare of animals in their care.

The guide – A Culture of Care – explores the notion of a ‘duty of care’ which Mrs Hoadley says requires a genuine commitment to the welfare of animals, a respect for the contribution they make to the work of scientists, researchers, and teachers, and a commitment to their wellbeing beyond the minimum standard.

“The concept is based on the universally accepted principles of replacement, reduction and refinement (the three Rs) which are the cornerstone of modern research and teaching practice involving animals.”

“It is the responsibility of the researcher to anticipate any potentially adverse effects of their work with animals and take all steps to avoid or minimise pain and distress,” she says.

The committee has also produced the Good Practice Guide for the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Teaching which encompasses all aspects of care and use of animals for scientific purposes in medicine, biology, agriculture, veterinary and other animal sciences, industry and teaching. The guide supports the general procedures outlined in the Guide on Codes of Ethical Conduct.

NAEAC also hosted a series of workshops and meetings with various Animal Ethics Committees around the country to assist members in undertaking their responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Mrs Hoadley said these meetings are invaluable for gaining a sense of how the Animal Welfare Act is being implemented in the area of animal research, testing and teaching, and also provides an important feedback mechanism in how NAEAC can fully support Animal Ethics Committees.

Hon Damien O'Connor Associate Minister of Agriculture Speach to AGCARM annual meeting,

President, members of the Executive committee, invited guests and conference delegates; it is my pleasure to join you today.

Agriculture is the leading sector in our economy, with growth in productivity averaging about twice that of the general economy since the mid-1980s. You play an important part in maintaining that productivity.

New Zealand is a geologically young country. Our soils are thin and lacking in minerals in comparison with older landmasses.

During our history, we have developed our pastoral agriculture, building up to being one of the world's best producers of high quality safe food. We have done this through our use of agricultural chemicals ? ranging from fertilisers to insecticides, as well as animal remedies and those with a multitude of uses. For a long time, that was considered unilaterally beneficial.

But as we progressed with production and scientific knowledge continued to develop, we discovered that agricultural chemicals could have a downside if they were used unwisely and improperly. As MP for Mapua, I am constantly reminded of such new awareness. Nitrate runoff is now being identified as affecting our waterways, and residues are now being monitored for possible contamination of animal products.

I suppose the inevitable reaction to such growing knowledge was the evolution of "chemophobes", people who want to be natural and not have any chemicals in their lives. They want to live naturally and organically, or so they say.

Now, putting to one side the fact that water is a chemical, as are all those natural and organic things we eat? there is a message for us in that development.

There is now a genuine concern by a growing number of people who want to be sure that we are not wasting our planet's resources and that we are making as little impact on the earth as possible. That is one of the spurs in the Government's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and it is also a driver in your industry to develop more effective chemicals and animal remedies.

There is also an absolute determination that all food we consume must be safe to eat and free of undesirable residues. That does of course leave the way open to debate the relative levels of safety or freedom from any other ingredients, a discussion best left to the Food Safety Authority rather than this forum.

But sometimes regulatory systems set up to manage chemical use undermine the objectives of the system itself.

Last month, Associate Commerce Minister John Tamihere released a report commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Development from NZIER, which looked at the impact of the HSNO legislation on business costs and innovation.

While that report should be considered indicative rather than definitive because of the survey's low response rate, its results are fairly clear.

Conclusions from the survey under the current HSNO regime were that:

1) Applicants' effort and costs were disproportionate to the risk being controlled and were considered high, particularly when compared to other countries

2) Costs of preparing the application outweighed ERMA costs; and

3) Application costs fell disproportionately on small, niche applications

Coinciding with that release, Environment Minister Marian Hobbs announced the Hazardous Substances Strategy, that I am sure will be positive for your industry, and for New Zealand business in general.

The Strategy aims to reduce the cost of complying with the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act without compromising safety or the environment.

I know that your organisation made a valuable contribution to the strategy working group. The work done by Ross Hore, Jack Richardson and others has been acknowledged and I would like to assure Agcarm members that their views were well received by Government. I believe they have been incorporated into the new strategy wherever possible.

The strategy itself is a comprehensive package to simplify the transfer process for existing substances, reduce application costs for new substances and improve the compliance and enforcement of HSNO.

It also directly addresses the concerns raised in those two studies done by NZIER.

With regard to changes, the main one is that the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) the agency that decides on applications to import, develop, or manufacture hazardous substances in New Zealand will have more flexibility to base its decisions on the actual risk posed by a particular substance or group of substances.

ERMA will have the means to assess low-risk applications more quickly and efficiently than currently. As a result, costs to applicants will be reduced substantially. These changes should encourage newer, safer chemicals into New Zealand ? tilting the playing field in favour of cleaner and greener substances.

Changes are also proposed to speed up the

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