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‘Better planning needed’ to bring down animal kill rate

Image: jxfzsy, via Getty Images

New Zealand government report prompts call to minimise “overbreeding” in animal research

“Overbreeding” should be kept to a minimum in animal research, the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching has said.

The council said that an April report from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries shows the need for “better prediction of numbers”. The ministry’s report revealed that in 2022, “a total of 134,845 animals were bred for research, testing and teaching purposes but not used and subsequently killed”.

The report covered 143 organisations’ use of animals. In 2022, 392,344 animals were used for research, testing and teaching, not including those bred and not used. Universities were the highest users, at 43 per cent, followed by commercial organisations at 36 per cent. Crown Research Institutes accounted for 9 per cent.

For the first time, the MPI report included questions on the 3Rs, meaning replacement, reduction and refinement of animal use. Organisations that responded to the optional questions said they were replacing animals with teaching aids and other techniques.

A team at the University of Otago made its own model lizards in order to test drones that were to be used as part of a field survey. The team said that “using model lizards, in line with the guiding principle of replacing live animals with models where possible, enabled us to perform multiple replicated trials free from bias introduced through animal activity as well as minimising impacts on animals”.

Call for investment

In its commentary on the ministry’s report, the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching called for greater promotion of the report and of research institutions’ own reporting of their animal use.

It said that more government funding is needed to implement animal use reforms and support ethics research.

In its submission to the Science System Advisory Group that is advising science minister Judith Collins on possible reforms, the council said: “Investing in animal ethics, the 3Rs and animal welfare science research is crucial for fostering public trust and acceptance of scientific practices.”