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Information about animal research in New Zealand

New Zealanders’ Attitudes to Animal Research in 2023

A recently conducted study reveals New Zealanders’ perspectives and knowledge on the use of animals in scientific research, testing, and teaching. The study was conducted on behalf of the New Zealand board of the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART NZ). You can read the report here:

ANZCCART_Animal research report Final
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The use of animals in research, testing and teaching in New Zealand

Animal use in research, testing and teaching in New Zealand is strictly controlled under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Any person or organisation using animals must follow an approved code of ethical conduct, which sets out the policies and procedures that must be followed by the organisation and its animal ethics committee. Further information about the regulation of animal research is available from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Records of the annual numbers of animals used in research, testing and teaching have been collected since 1987, and record animals that have had manipulations involving the normal physiological, behavioural, or anatomical integrity of the animal by deliberately subjecting it to a procedure which is unusual or abnormal when compared with that to which animals of that type would be subjected under normal management or practice. This can involve exposing the animal to any parasite, micro-organism, drug, chemical, biological product, radiation, electrical stimulation, or environmental condition; or enforced activity, restraint, nutrition, or surgical intervention; or depriving the animal of usual care.

Proportion of animals (per type) used in research, testing and teaching in 2022

From 1 January 2018, the definition of ‘manipulation’ was expanded to include the killing of an animal for research, testing or teaching on its body or tissues, and the breeding or producing offspring that have potentially compromised welfare due to breeding (for example, to research some hereditary medical conditions). All animals reported in this new category are required to be treated with the same duty of care as animals used for research and teaching. Reasons for animals being bred but not used might include:

  • Wrong sex for the specific research project (this is because the sex ratio of offspring can often not be controlled prior to birth).

  • Creating or maintaining genetically altered lines (not all offspring have the required genetic alteration).

  • Number bred was over and above what was needed (exact size of litters or number of offspring born are usually unpredictable).

  • Sufficient numbers are needed to sustain animal colonies, as well as ensure adequate diversity and sufficient timely supply for research and teaching purposes.

  • ‘Sentinel animals’ used for health screening of other animals in the laboratory, whose condition hints towards any subtle health issues in the lab that could widely impact other animals’ welfare.

The animals can also be useful after death in teaching and training, or by storing tissues from the animals which can be used in future research. This may reduce the number of animals that need to be bred and used in future.

The definition of animal, however, varies from country to country:

  • In New Zealand it includes any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, octopus, squid, crab, lobster, or crayfish, including any mammalian foetus, or any avian or reptilian pre-hatched young, that is in the last half of its period of gestation or development, but excludes any animal in the pre-natal, pre-hatched, larval, or other such developmental stage (other than those indicated previously). Marsupial pouch young are also considered animals.

  • In Australia it includes any fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and cephalopods, but with some variation by state. In some States it also extends to lobsters, crabs or crayfish. In South Australia, a license is not required to use fish for research purposes.

  • In the US, it includes warm-blooded animals, but excludes birds, rats and mice bred for use in research.

  • In the EU, it includes live vertebrate animals and cephalopods, including independently feeding larval forms and foetal forms of mammals.

Institutional Codes of Ethical Conduct under animal welfare legislation

Before institutions in New Zealand are permitted to use animals for research, testing or teaching, they must apply for a licence from the government. The licence is called a ‘Code of Ethical Conduct’. This system is unique to New Zealand. Each institutional Code sets out the conditions and rules for animal use. Codes vary between organisations, depending upon the nature of the scientific activity. These Codes offer insights into how organisations value animals used for scientific or teaching purposes.

In the interests of transparency, ANZCCART requested in 2015 that these codes be made available for public scrutiny. In response to our request, the institutional codes of ethical conduct approved by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries that were current in 2015 (n=21) were made available from the FYI website, with an additional code available here. [Please note that the codes for Massey University, New Zealand Association of Science Educators and the University of Canterbury are not included on the FYI website as they are already available on their respective institutional websites.] In 2021 the ANZCCART New Zealand Openness Agreement has encouraged all signatories to make their codes publicly available on their institution’s website.

ARRIVE and PREPARE Guidelines

ANZCCART is supporting the adoption of the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting the findings of research projects using animals, and the PREPARE guidelines for planning research using animals. More information on these guidelines can be found here: ARRIVE, PREPARE.

ANZCCART supports and encourages the re-homing of research animals as an alternative to euthanasia, wherever possible.

ANZCCART Newsletters

You can sign up for the ANZCCART Newsletter here. The latest editions can be seen here.

Frequently asked questions:

1. What regulations exist for animal research in New Zealand?

New Zealand law mandates that researchers must apply to an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) to gain approval for using animals in research, testing, and teaching. These AECs are also tasked with monitoring approved research activities. The composition of AECs includes a veterinarian, a scientist, a member of an animal welfare advocacy organization (e.g., SPCA), and a layperson with no involvement in animal research. This diverse membership provides a broad perspective on animal welfare. The government, while not directly involved in AEC decision-making, regulates animal research by reviewing the codes of ethical conduct that AECs and researchers operate under, oversees these AECs and requires annual reporting from the organisations that have them​​.


2. Is cosmetic testing on animals allowed in New Zealand?

Testing on animals for developing, making, or testing a cosmetic or an ingredient that is intended exclusively for use in a cosmetic is explicitly banned in New Zealand under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, 2015 amendment.


3. How are animals chosen for research?

Animals are selected for research based on the specific needs of the study and the suitability of different species to provide relevant data. The selection process is governed by ethical considerations, aiming to use non-sentient, or non-living organisms where possible and to minimize the number of animals used. Researchers must demonstrate that no viable alternatives exist and that the potential benefits of the research justify the use of animals.


4. Are there alternatives to using animals in research?

Yes, researchers actively seek alternatives to animal testing, such as cell-based models, computer modelling, and other technologies that can reduce or eliminate the need for animal use. This effort aligns with the Three Rs: Replacement of animals with non-animal methods, Reduction in the number of animals used, and Refinement of techniques to reduce impacts​​.


5. How can the public learn more about animal research?

The public can learn more about animal research through various trusted sources, including animal welfare organizations, regulatory bodies, and research institutions. Many of these organisations support openness about use of animals in research and teaching as signatories to the Openness Agreement on Animal use in Research and Teaching in New Zealand. They provide educational resources online, offering insights into how animal research is conducted, regulated, and how it contributes to scientific and medical advancements. Engaging with these sources can provide a balanced view of the ethical considerations and the importance of animal research in certain contexts.


Resource links

The following resources are available on the use of animals in research, testing or teaching in New Zealand:

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