The University of Otago is proud to be an inaugural signatory of an agreement which pledges openness in animal research and teaching.
The Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand commits Otago to ensuring the public is well informed about animal research. It is initiated and led by the Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART).
Otago is one of 21 organisations from around New Zealand to sign the agreement, which will be launched on Tuesday 27 July at the ANZCCART conference in Queenstown.
University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie says signing the agreement is significant.
“The University is, and has always been committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards in research and teaching involving animals, including the reduction, refinement or replacement of such use when possible.
“Engagement and openness with the public are important to us in order to articulate the reasons why the use of animals is required in many circumstances, to demonstrate the benefits that accrue from such teaching and research, as well as to demonstrate the levels of responsibility and welfare that are put into practice for the animals under our care,” he says.
“Becoming an inaugural signatory to this agreement is a natural step for us in demonstrating these commitments alongside other universities and research organisations.”
Bioethics Centre Senior Lecturer and animal ethicist Dr Mike King says the agreement is an “immensely valuable achievement”.
“Animal research and teaching can only occur if a society consents to it, permitting researchers and teachers to do their work, and allowing others – people, non-human animals, and the environment – to benefit from the results of this work,” Dr King says.
“Without consent from society, expressed through public agreement, and facilitated by law and policy, animal research and teaching will diminish, and any value it offers will diminish as well.”
Animal research and teaching is an ethically complex issue, and informed, reasonable disagreement about it is an opportunity for ethical progress to be made he says.
“This research is always undertaken with the aim of benefitting humans, animals and the environment. Animals are central to this issue and should be central beneficiaries of this progress.
“A crucial further commitment is to communicate this information to tangata whenua. This information is essential for informing the ongoing deliberation, public and private, by individuals and groups, whānau and families, hapū and iwi, about whether and what uses of animals in research and teaching are justifiable or tika.
“There will be different views about what information is needed to explain this, and what constitutes fulfilment of these commitments. It is unlikely that all will agree on this topic, but they will have the opportunity to be more informed,” Dr King says.
Otago researcher Professor Greg Anderson, who uses animal research for his work on fertility and metabolic syndrome, says the agreement is a positive step forward.
“Scientists are proud of the work they do to advance the understanding and treatment of health and disease, but haven’t always been good at communicating this to the public.
“It’s great to be part of this proactive endeavour of laying down specific steps to change this situation for the better,” Professor Anderson says.