Information on animal ethics and legislation in New Zealand

It is the responsibility of everyone who uses animals to ensure that they are only used when absolutely necessary and that when they are used they are treated with care and respect. If an animal is used for research, testing or teaching the work must be conducted in line with the Three Rs (from the ideas of Russell and Burch in their 1959 book The principles of humane experimental technique available through the Johns Hopkins Alt Web website).


Where possible an alternative to using animals must be used. This could include a computer model or cell culture (where animal or human cells are grown in a laboratory).


The minimum number of animals must be used to gain good experimental results. This means that experiments must be well designed and that as many experimental variables as possible are controlled (i.e. that you only change one thing in your experimental group as compared to your control group). This means that the research or test will provide quality data which can withstand statistical analysis.


The animals should not suffer. At all times the health and wellbeing of animals should be a priority. As much as possible the animal should be able to live normally, free from any pain and suffering, throughout the research, teaching or testing process.

To gain ethical approval to work with animals (research, testing or teaching) you must submit an application to an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). Most research institutions (e.g. university) have their own Animal Ethics Committees. To find out how to apply you should contact your Head of Department or the research office of your institution. If you work in an institution or company that does not have an Animal Ethics Committee please contact us and we can advise you on how to proceed.

Legislation on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching

In New Zealand the use of animals in research, testing and teaching is controlled by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This legislation is designed to protect animals in NZ from harmful or inhumane treatment. It covers our obligation to care for animals; who can conduct surgical procedures on animals; animal exports; humane treatment of wild animals; and codes of welfare. The following sections take you through the major parts of the Animal Welfare Act to help you understand when it applies, what species it applies to and when an activity is allowed by New Zealand law. For more information see the ANZCCART Guide to the Animal Welfare Act; the Ministry for Primary Industries Guide to the Animal Welfare Act 1999; and the NAEAC website.

Researchers and teachers must apply for approval from an Animal Ethics Committee if they wish to carry out any form of research, testing or teaching on an animal. The approval is normally sought by the lead investigator or teaching team leader (course co-ordinator). Once approval is given it will allow students and employees of the lab to carry out the animal work provided they are adequately trained and are fully aware of the protocols, including those around animal care, that are permitted for use.