Expect to see clearer information about the use of animals in research and teaching within New Zealand thanks to a newly established openness agreement. Twenty-one universities, institutes of technology, non-profits, Crown Research Institutes, government organisations, umbrella bodies, research funding organisations and learned societies have all committed to communicating openly about animal use.
NZ will be the first country outside Europe with an animal research openness agreement, which was launched in July in Queenstown at the Australian and NZ Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) 2021 conference.
“Public confidence in animal research depends on the scientific community taking part in an ongoing conversation about why, and how animals are used,” NZ ANZCCART board chairperson and acting deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) of the University of Otago Professor Pat Cragg says.
“Through signing this openness agreement, the signatory organisations have committed to having this conversation with the public.
“Being open about why and how we use animals in research and teaching is just so important.”
Maintaining and improving high standards of animal welfare has been a longstanding commitment in NZ, as well as undertaking world-leading research and teaching using animals, controlled under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The scientific community in NZ recognises the importance of demonstrating and promoting values that contribute to these animal welfare standards.
“The objective of the agreement is to ensure that the public is well-informed about animal research, including the benefits, harms, and limitations,” he says.
“Topics such as the role animal research plays in the process of scientific discovery, how research is regulated in New Zealand and what researchers and animal care staff do to promote positive animal welfare should be addressed.
“And communication should be realistic about the ethical considerations involved, including that of the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. Research is done that aims to benefit humans, animals and the environment.”
The agreement has been modelled on the 2014 groundbreaking Concordat on openness on animal research led by Understanding Animal Research in the United Kingdom. Similar agreements have followed in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and France, with the assistance of the European Animal Research Association.
A working group of 13 organisations chaired by Dr Jodi Salinsky, animal welfare officer and University Veterinarian at the University of Auckland, prepared the agreement and reviews were provided by the ANZCCART NZ board and through public consultation.
“The judicious use of animals in research remains vital to scientific, medical and veterinary progress,” Salinsky says.
“The agreement will help organisations that conduct, fund or support animal research communicate about the crucial work that is being done on the public’s behalf, by dedicated researchers, technicians and animal care staff.
“The current pandemic provides an ideal time to help our community understand the important contribution of this work. We look forward to the day when animals are no longer needed and honour the animals for the advances made that allow treatments, vaccinations and cures for diseases to be found.”