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Latest statistics on the use of research animals released

There was a 17 percent decrease in the number of live animals used for research, testing or teaching last year.

These figures were released today in the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) annual report. “Although the number of animals used for research fluctuates from year to year, both NAEAC and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will continue to encourage the practice of humane science, to promote a culture of care and to support the implementation of the three Rs – reduction, refinement, and replacement.” said David Bayvel a Committee member and MAF's Animal Welfare Director.

“Last year’s figures show a drop of over 90 percent in the number of animals being used by the Government sector. In the previous year this sector had reported higher numbers due to large pesticide trials,” said Dr Bayvel.

The two biggest decreases in terms of animal percentages were possums and fish. There was an increase in the numbers of marine mammals, reptiles and other miscellaneous species used for basic biological research.

Basic biological research was the main reason for animal use during 2002. This increased by 18 percent. Other categories of research include medical research, teaching, commercial work and veterinary research.

“The majority of animals used in research undergo little or no suffering,” said Dr Bayvel.

“Mice are still the most commonly used animals for research and product testing, and the animals associated with the largest degree of suffering.

“In cases like these all steps are taken to reduce the negative effects on animals. Those steps include a high level of veterinary care where practical, pre- and post- operative pain relief where appropriate, and removal from the study or euthanasia immediately the research objective is achieved.”

Only 0.6 percent of animals were used in genetic modification research which is in dramatic contrast to the number of animals used in Europe and North America.

All research, testing or teaching involving live animals in New Zealand must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and must be approved by an Animal Ethics Committee which includes three independent members.

NAEAC is an independent ministerial advisory committee established to advise the Minister of Agriculture on issues relating to the use of animals in research, testing or teaching.

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