Anti-animal experiment campaign targets University of Otago

Author
Jeremy Quinn, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Dec 2021, 3:45PM
Fifteen Otago University medical students were sanctioned for lying about how they spent six-week work placements in Eastern Europe. (Photo / File)
Fifteen Otago University medical students were sanctioned for lying about how they spent six-week work placements in Eastern Europe. (Photo / File)

Anti-animal experiment campaign targets University of Otago

Author
Jeremy Quinn, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Dec 2021, 3:45PM

The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society will run a 12-day campaign highlighting animal experiments done by University of Otago researchers. 

But the university says at least some of the society's allegations are based on old experiments, no longer performed at the university. 

Society executive director Tara Jackson said force-feeding alcohol to young rats was one of about a dozen allegedly "unethical" experiments on animals conducted at the university, and details of more would be publicised over the next 10 days as part of the society's 12 Days of Christmas campaign. 

Deputy vice-chancellor Prof Richard Blaikie said the allegation about force-feeding alcohol to rats related to a study undertaken in 2010 that investigated the impact of alcohol on the adolescent brain. 

"The university is confident that any adverse events that occurred during this research were addressed through our animal welfare office and the ethical compliance channels at the time." 

Jackson said the information came from the society's large-scale investigation into animal research experiments at the university's $50 million animal lab. 

"The bottom line is that rats and humans are fundamentally different. Force-feeding alcohol to rats does not teach us anything about humans or help us solve the issue of binge-drinking in teenagers." 

All it was doing was siphoning funds away from human-centred and human-relevant projects, she said. 

Other alleged experiments uncovered by the society included making animals tread water, administering electric shocks, implanting electrodes, and causing animals chronic stress. 

"NZAVS is calling on the University of Otago to refocus its science on human-centred and human-relevant science. 

"To be frank, the University of Otago has had enough time to sort out their treatment of animals. 

"So now we are publicly shaming them and will be taking our case to the Government next year," she said. 

There are many viable replacements for animal dissections, but the university had declined to implement them, she said. 

Prof Blaikie said the university's research had directly contributed to significant medical breakthroughs in many chronic and deadly diseases and conditions, including heart disease, infertility, cancer, diabetes and depression. 

"Progress on these and other conditions would come to a halt if we did not have the privilege of using animals in some of our research to complement laboratory-based studies or computer simulation." 

All potential live animal experiments were subject to approval from an animal ethics committee, he said.