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Fewer animals in tests, higher death rate

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/12/2016
Lab mice © SPL Lab mice

Fewer animals were used in experiments in New Zealand in 2015 but a bigger proportion didn't survive their tests, according to figures released by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

A total of 225,310 animals were experimented on last year, down 27.4 per cent on 2014, and the most popular subjects, in order, were cattle, mice, fish and sheep.

However, the proportion that died or were put down rose to 39.1 per cent from 34.4 per cent.

The figures show more than 75 per cent involved experiments which caused little or no harm, down from the long-term average of 80.9 per cent.

However, animals suffering "moderate impact" rose from the long-term average of 12.5 per cent to 19.3 per cent.

Those animals suffering most harm dropped from the long-term average of 6.6 per cent to 5.1 per cent.

Stock survival rates were 96.2 per cent because the experiments were low invasive and they generally stayed with their herd.

However, just 3.3 per cent of rodents and rabbits survived their experiments.

MPI noted the rolling three-year average, at 253,215, was at its lowest since the Animal Welfare Act 1999 came into force.

"There are strict controls around the use of animals for research, testing and teaching," MPI's Paul Dansted said in a statement.

"These controls are designed to prevent unnecessary pain and distress to animals and ensure any cost to the animals must be outweighed by the potential or actual benefits to be gained from the work."

Examples of high or very high impact studies:

* surgically inserted transmitters in mallard ducks for population studies

* satellite tags attached to sharks

* catching reef fish with a spear gun to study their demography

* animal vaccines tested on guinea pigs

* testing 1080 alternatives on possums, rats, mice and pigs

* testing different strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease on rabbits

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