There has been much talk on the matter of animal testing for legal highs currently being considered by the Government in a Bill being rushed through Parliament, and much of this conversation has resulted in inaccurate conclusions.
I would like to make it very clear from the outset that neither I nor the SPCA has at any time departed from our staunch opposition to animal testing in any form, and certainly not for these vile and unnecessary substances. To assist you I am detailing the facts in this matter.
• Early this year when we were aware that animal testing was being considered a possibility with this Psychoactive Substances Bill the SPCA had no hesitation in joining with the NZ Anti- Vivisection Society and SAFE in mounting a campaign to stop animal testing, spearheaded with a petition promoted by website.
• In addition we wrote and presented our submission to Parliament, together with many others including those with whom we were partnering in this matter.
• In May this year it was announced that the Health Select Committee was refusing to hear submissions on this Bill (we believe due to the urgency of having it passed) and on May 13th I issued a media release condemning this decision noting that I was ‘appalled that submissions are not being heard on the use of animal testing’. The release went on to say that such testing was banned in the UK and other countries classifying these tests as being ‘ morally and ethically objectionable’. The media release also contained quotes from Stephen Manson from NZAVS with whom the SPCA is working together with.
• Also in May I was asked by the Minister onto the ‘Interim Expert Psychoactive Substances Advisory Committee’ tasked with the job of advising the Minister on the matter of animal testing. This was not an easy decision to make, however I believed that if we could voice our opposition at this level we may get somewhere, given that at that point in time we had no alternative voice for the animals. I wrote to the Minister directly advising he should be aware that I was opposed to animal testing and that my presence on this committee should in no way be taken that I would be condoning it.
• The committee was made very aware of my opposition, and as a way of possibly stopping the need for the use of animals I supplied six known in vitro tests approved by the OECD that could replace animal testing, followed by over thirty other tests I suggested should be studied many of which I hoped may also stop the need to use animals.
• Eventually the committee reported back to the Minister that ‘some tests on animals may be necessary but that alternatives would be sought’ a statement based very much on the evidence I had presented to them. This decision was not a unanimous one from the committee, rather a consensus of the majority given my opposition. The media reported that ‘it might be necessary to have some animal testing’ and as I was on the committee it was assumed, quite incorrectly, that I condoned it, which of course was an incorrect assumption.
• The day following the media report I issued a further media statement on 17th June reiterating the fact that both the Society and I are still totally opposed to the use of animals for this purpose.
• Mojo Mather is submitting an amendment to the Psychoactive Substances Bill to Parliament aimed at stopping all animal testing for this purpose which is seen as possibly our last opportunity, and accordingly we have asked our supporters to contact their local MP expressing their support for the amendment.
Finally, it is logical that as the next phase in the special Advisory Committee will be to select those tests that will require animal testing I have resigned from that committee as my ethical responsibility to all animals.