In July 2012 the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced a proposal from the then Associate Minister of Health, Hon Peter Dunne, for legislation regulating the sale of low-risk psychoactive substances ("party pills"). Cabinet agreed to the proposal and the legislation ("Psychoactive Substances Bill") is now before Parliament.
As part of the approval process the safety is to be assessed. The MoH is currently planning the details of the testing regime. Part of what the MoH is looking at involves an extensive round of animal tests. These tests are to be carried out on two species, one small and one large; the MoH is assuming that rats and dogs will be used as this is what is usually done. The LD50 test has already been ruled out but there are other animal tests that could be required.
For these the animals will be forced to ingest the substance by the same route that the human users will be. The animals will then be killed at the conclusion of the testing period so that their internal organs can be examined. One of the main purposes of the animal testing is to find if such drugs are safe enough to be used in the planned controlled human trials.
There are better ways that don't require the use of any animal testing. The fact is animal experiments give very poor results when compared to the many far more modern non-animal tests that could be carried out instead.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill is currently before parliament. After Peter Dunne's removal from Cabinet National Party MP Todd McClay became the Minister responsible for the Bill. The select committee has reported back on the Bill and suggested changes, among which is a clause describing how animals will be used for the testing. Currently as it stands the Bill will require animal testing to be carried out in order to approve the drugs for sale. For more details on the recent change to the Bill see the NZAVS media release "Government Ensures Animals Will Die to Test Legal Highs", the full text of the select committee report that states animal testing will be required and includes the Green Party minority comment explaining why animal testing data should be completely excluded from being used is available here.
The only way to ensure no animal testing is carried out is for the legislation to rule it out. The government wants to leave the detail of the testing regime out of the legislation so it can be modified at any time without public consultation. If a clause ruling out animal testing isn't included in the legislation then there is nothing to stop it happening either now or in the future.
Polls have shown about the vast majority of New Zealand people oppose all use of animal testing for recreational drugs (75% opposed in a NZ Herald poll on 31 Dec. 2012 and a later Horizon Poll had only 14.8% support for animal testing if it gave the best results). Our representatives in Parliament need to listen to what New Zealanders want and ensure no animal testing of these drugs occurs.
The Bill is currently before parliament and the submission period has now ended. All submissions needed to be received by the 1st of May 2013. NZAVS, SAFE and the SPCA all made submissions on the Bill, copies are available below.
Hundreds of people sent in submissions based on the suggested format that was provided here with many adding their own comments and thoughts. Many more made other written and online submissions. We had hoped that the Health Select Committee would consider the wishes of the New Zealand public and recommend to parliament that no animal testing of recreational drugs be allowed. Peter Dunne after all had repeatedly said the best way for people to voice their concerns was by submitting to the select committee. Instead, after a vote in the committee where the National Party members outvoted the all other parties, a decision was made to not consider any submissions relating to the use of animal testing and to return them unread.
The Green Party strongly disagreed with the decision to not consider the many submissions on the issue and held a hearing in parliament to allow those submitters that wished to make an oral submission to do so. The summarised the submissions in a report that can be read here. (.pdf)
We are asking that the Government include a clause in the Psychoactive Substances Bill that rules out the use of animal testing in the safety testing of recreational drugs.
A petition was organised by NZAVS, SAFE and the RNZASPCA addressed to Parliament that read "We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the New Zealand Parliament includes a clause specifically prohibiting animal testing in any proposed legislation aimed at the regulation of Psychoactive Substances ("party pills" or "legal highs")."
The petition was handed to Mojo Mathers MP to present to Parliament on the 22nd of May 2012. In only six weeks an extremely impressive 42,019 signatures were gathered and a further 25,368 people gave their names in support in the online version of the petition. The petition was presented so soon after its launch as it needed to be before parliament while the Psychoactive Substances Bill is being considered and voted on.
The petition handover day was a successful event attended by a lively group of supporters including many from the HUHA animal sanctuary accompanied by beagles that had been rescued from the VARC vivisection laboratory. For information on the VARC beagle rescue and the great work the HUHA team does please go here.
There was an overwhelming positive response from the public to the petition with an amazing amount of support and volunteer hours going into it from so many different people from all walks of life. It is impossible to thank every person, organisation and retail outlet that helped, there were so many of them. Extra special mention though needs to be given to The Body Shop for their selfless wholehearted support in having the petition in every store nationwide and contributing in a huge way to the total number of signatures gathered.
The petition has been before the Health Select Committee since being presented to parliament by Mojo Mathers on 28 May 2013, and as of 17 July 2013 we are yet to hear from them as to how they are responding. We will update this site when more is known.
On learning that the Ministry of Health (MoH) was considering animal testing NZAVS made Official Information Act (OIA) requests seeking information relating to this. The source of the recommendations for animal testing to the MoH is the first report below obtained under the OIA. The MoH then privately circulated the following discussion document, also obtained under the OIA, that outlined their intentions to selected individuals.
This report was provided to the Ministry of Health and outlined a testing regime that used a large amount of animal testing: Download Report (pdf)
This is the Ministry of Health discussion document outlining their intentions for a testing regime based on the report they received:
Download Report (pdf)
On receiving these NZAVS asked international toxicology testing experts for comment on the proposed testing regime. This report was received in response. It outlines multiple non-animal tests that can be used to meet the requirements of the testing regime the Ministry of Health is wanting:
Download Report (pdf)
The Psychoactive Substances Bill went through the first reading in Parliament on Tuesday 9th April 2013 and is about to go to the Health Select Committee. The dates and duration of the public submission period will be set by them shortly. Despite the significant public outcry over the proposed animal testing the Green Party was the only political party to raise the issue at the first reading. Green Party MP Mojo Mathers made an informative and impassioned speech that describes why animal testing should not be allowed by the legislation. The transcript and a video of the speech can be found here: Mojo Mathers' speech in parliament.
If you have any further queries please submit them by emailing us.
Founded in 1978 by Bette Overell, the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society is an incorporated society that is working for the abolition of vivisection on the grounds that it is scientific fraud. Over the past three decades we have held demonstrations, presented petitions to Parliament, submissions to government and regulatory authorities, and introduced the public to vivisection through advertisements and the showing of videos such as Hidden Crimes and Lethal Medicine. The cruelty and exploitation of animals by the vivisection industry is self-evident, so our campaign is focused on the scientific invalidity of vivisection and the resulting danger to human health.
NZAVS Official Website
SAFE is one of New Zealand's most proactive animal advocacy organisations with an 80 year history in New Zealand. SAFE works nationally, with 35 centres and offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. SAFE has had a long history of highlighting the cruelty of animal testing and in 2011 launched SAFEShopper, New Zealand's own guide to cosmetics not tested on animals. On the web at safeshopper.org.nz and safe.org.nz
The Royal New Zealand SPCA abides by its ancient ethos, 'we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves'. In living by this principle the Society undertakes enforcement work bringing animal criminals to justice, whilst campaigning on all animal welfare issues, for all species, to deliver the very best world in which animals can live freely and without pain and suffering.
SPCA Official Website
The next best hope to stop all animal testing from happening is for an amendment put forward by Green Party MP Mojo Mathers to become part of the legislation. This amendment will stop the use of animal testing data being used to approve recreational drugs for sale. The amendment can be viewed here.
This will be voted on by all MPs in the near future. Let your local MP and political party leaders know that they need to support this amendment. Contact details for all MPs can be found here.
Share this site to make people aware and inform them of the implications of this legislation for thousands of animals.
The vote on the amendment is likely to be on June 27, we don't have much time and this is the next best hope for something meaningful in the legislation!
Check back for updates which will happen as information comes to hand.