Date: 21 Jun 2016
Author: Claire Insley
It is very disheartening to hear that Otago University are planning to spend $50 million on a new animal research facility. It is usually claimed that animal research is necessary for medical purposes and most countries, including New Zealand will not allow a medication to be released unless it has been tested on animals. There are currently just 3 research facilities in the world which are dedicated to non-animal testing, John Hopkins University and UC Davis, both in the United States and Utrecht University, in The Netherlands. Wouldn't it be a more positive step forward if this facility followed this path? The advancements in 3D printing and other technologies are making animal research more obsolete by the day. There are also the increasing number of scientists who are coming to the conclusion that animal testing really doesn't add up. How many times has the cure for cancer been thrown away because it didn't work on mice? We shall never know. Many scientists are realising that the animal model for humans really isn't good enough. We share only 50% of our genes with mice (and bananas), chimpanzees are our closest cousin with 96% DNA sharing. We also share many genes with yeast and researchers are looking into using yeast cells to study human genes. Yet mice (and not bananas) are still the most used model for research into human ills. I have often wondered why we don't spend the research money on looking at why healthy people are healthy, at encouraging known healthy diets and practices? Surely to an extent we humans have a responsibility to look after ourselves? Instead, the “answer” is to open up a new animal lab. How many medical discoveries have been due to animal research? The Otago Daily Times published a list of a famous few... however, closer inspection reveals that the “medical advances” on this list are either misleading or completely false. Could we have got just as good or even better results quicker if time and money had not been shoved down the animal testing route? Again, we shall never know. All of this laughs in the face of the Animal Welfare Bill which states that animals are sentient beings, yet the Otago University uses some 18,157 animals per year in research, testing and teaching, of which some 13,937 animals per year have died. (These figures are the average over the last 3 years) The most commonly used species were mice, rats and fish. In NZ in 2014 310,287 animals were used in research, testing and teaching. The most commonly reported species were cattle (24.3%), mice (18.8%), sheep (14.4%) and fish (13.1%). The US has recentlydecided that cell-based assays are a more effective way to test chemical toxicities, than using animals, which is certainly very good news for them. In 2008, the US said it was going to replace animals with robots for some toxicity tests. Better technology is out there. Do we need any of this research at all? If humans are no more important a species than the rest of the animal kingdom, should we be trying to prevent our demise at all? This is a most unpopular question amongst non-vegans, how is it for us as vegans?
Take action now via NZAVS: Stop the Otago animal lab