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Published 17 May 2024

A good step-up in Three Rs reporting and other positive trends: 2022 New Zealand Animal Research, Testing and Teaching Statistics

The Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART NZ) has provided commentary on the release of the 2022 statistics about the use of animals in research, testing and teaching in New Zealand.


New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) released the 2022 statistics about the use of animals in research, testing and teaching (RTT) in April 2024.


Commentary key messages:

  • The challenge to MPI, NAEAC and ANZCCART NZ is how to get these reports and commentaries out into the public domain.
  • We encourage New Zealand institutions to publish their statistics on their websites.
  • In the spirit of Openness, we encourage NZ Institutions to place their examples of their use of the Three Rs on their websites.
  • ANZCCART NZ encourages funding bodies and institutions to externally and internally fund research into the Three Rs.
  • ANZCCART NZ hopes that for ethical reasons any other overbreeding is kept to a minimum by better prediction of numbers needed. 


ANZCCART NZ provides annual commentary on these reports as part of our commitment to openness in the use of animals for RTT. We commend the continuing publication of annual statistics in NZ which started in 1987, originally by NAEAC (National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee), and since 2014 by MPI. The 2022 data were provided at the end of February 2023 by the country’s 24 Institutional Code Holders and the 119 other organisations that seek approval for their use of animals from the Animal Ethics Committee of a Code Holder. We also acknowledge the considerable work and time required of MPI to collate and analyse the data for release to the public of a report in a very understandable format.

As revealed by the 2023 ANZCCART-commissioned survey of New Zealanders’ perspectives on and knowledge of the use of animals in RTT, understandable information is critical to bridge the huge knowledge information gap identified in the survey and to provide transparency about the numbers and types of animals used in RTT, as well as the purpose of the RTT activity and the impact on each animal.

All this information is well and truly in the statistics released annually by MPI in a very readable format. Perhaps these annual reports are not sought out, or easily found, by the general public. The challenge to MPI, NAEAC and ANZCCART NZ is how to get these reports and commentaries out into the public domain. 



To advocate for greater transparency on animal use in RTT, ANZCCART NZ launched in July 2021 the Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in NZ to encourage institutions using animals to commit to a number of initiatives that would ensure increased transparency. Signatories report on an annual basis on how they are progressing and ANZCCART NZ collates and publishes the information and makes a number of recommendations to enhance progress (Second annual report). World-wide the first Openness Agreement began 10 years ago in the UK (called the Concordat on openness on animal research), with similar agreements developed over the years in European countries and most recently in Australia by ANZCCART Aus. The NZ Openness Agreement covers not only animals used for research (including testing) but also those used for teaching and in recognition of Te Tiriti (the Treaty of Waitangi) we have an extra commitment to enhance communication on these matters with Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Many UK and European countries not only publish their country’s annual statistics on animal use but individual institutions do so too on their websites. We encourage New Zealand Institutions to do the same. 


The Three Rs

The corner stones of the Openness Agreement and the ANZCCART approach to the care of animals used in RTT is to provide information to enhance the understanding of animal use in RTT and to progress the long-standing principle of the Three Rs – Replacement, Reduction and Refinement including the extent of replacement by use of alternatives to animals. 

In our comments on MPI’s 2021 animal use statistics, we strongly recommended that reporting on implementation of the Three Rs needed to be boosted and encouraged funding bodies to allocate funding for the development of non-animal based alternatives and ways to refine the methodology used to reduce the impact on an individual animal and reduce the numbers used.

ANZCCART NZ is delighted to see that the 2022 statistical report now includes a considerably extended section on the Three Rs. Given that Animal Ethics Committees have no oversight of research that uses replacements/alternatives and does not capture in a quantified way the quantum of reduction or refinement, statistical reporting of the Three Rs is not possible. Instead, MPI asked institutions to volunteer information. For Replacement, 30 of the 143 organisations provided a total of 76 examples; for Reduction 44 organisations provided 98 examples; and for Refinement 43 organisations provided 132 examples. A common misunderstanding by the general public is that institutions are not interested in replacing animals or reducing use – this MPI report certainly proves otherwise. In the spirit of Openness , we encourage NZ Institutions to place their examples on their websites.  


Replacement by Alternatives

Also, pleasingly, there appears to be an increase in the development of alternatives or at least the validation of such alternatives. MPI collects data annually on this and the trend is definitely upwards: 2022 data records 922 animals used to develop valid alternatives compared with 162, 125, 0, 181, 64, 0 and 66 in 2021 through to 2014 respectively. Funding for this type of research is minimal and ANZCCART NZ continues to encourage funding bodies and institutions to externally and internally fund research into the Three Rs.  


Animal use statistics in 2022

The total number of animals used in 2022 in NZ was 392,344, the highest use since 2008 (~340,00). As numbers vary each year (and can be as low as ~225,00), the three-year rolling average of 315,913 (for the 3 years to 2022) is a better indicator of use and trends and is only slightly higher than that of the 3 years to 2019 (310,497). The annual variability in numbers is because NZ’s Animal Welfare Act 1999 requires statistics to be reported every 3 years for long-term projects, or when a project is completed or when the ethical approval expires, whichever comes first. Annual variability also occurs due to variation from year to year of the research and testing being undertaken and this is also very much dependent on the varying availability of research and commercial funding. 

For the projects reported on in 2022, the most commonly used animals were cattle, followed by sheep, then mice and then fish. This contrasts with 2021 where the sequence was fish, cattle, rabbits, mice and sheep. 2022 data reflected a preponderance of veterinary research and animal husbandry whereas 2021 data reflected a preponderance of research for environmental management including pest control of wild rabbits. 


Why are animals used?

For 2022 data the rank order of purpose was: veterinary research, basic biological research, animal husbandry, teaching, production of biological agents, environmental management, medical research, product testing and species conservation. Each year the rank order changes depending on the projects being reported on. A truer reflection of purpose is to look at the average use per purpose over a number of years. For the last 9 years the average shows a rank order of: basic biological research, veterinary research, animal husbandry, teaching, medical research, product testing, environmental management and species conservation. It must be pointed out that cosmetic testing on animals is not allowed in NZ – a common misunderstanding by the general public.


Who uses animals?

The top two users are Universities and Commercial Organisations accounting for ~80% of the use. Some years universities are top, other years commercial organisations. In rank order the remaining users are always (% are those for 2022): Crown Research Institutions (9%), “Others” (5%), Polytechnics (4%), Government departments (2%) and Schools (1%).


What is the impact on animals during RTT?

6% of animals used in 2022 were not “manipulated” by a project but were euthanised humanely for the purpose of using their tissues for RTT. This % is similar to previous years (5% to 8%) except for 13% of 245,522 animals in 2020 and noting that animal use in this category of “tissue use only” was only recorded from 2018 onwards when an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act introduced this “openness in information” requirement. 

The impact on all other animals used in RTT is reported on a five-point scale. It ranges from ‘no or virtually no impact (pain or stress)’ through ‘little’, ‘moderate’, ‘high’ to ‘very high’ where in the last category there is significant pain or stress caused over a long duration. The MPI report contains specific details of animal type and reasons for the high or very high impact score. 

Over the last 20 years, the % of animals that experienced ‘no or virtually no impact’ or ‘little’ has averaged 80% and that for ‘high impact’ or ‘very high impact’ has averaged 5.8%. The latter was unusually high at 20% in 2021 because of pest control research in wild rabbits. In 2022 the nature of the projects being reported on is such that 86% of animals experienced no or little impact and only 2% experienced high or very high impact.


What is the final outcome for the animals after the RTT?

Over the previous 5 years of data 46% to 66% of animals used did not die during or have to be euthanised at the end of the project and hence were alive after the RTT project. Pleasingly this % has risen to 80% (311,566 animals) in the 2022 data. These animals are primarily returned to their owners (e.g. farm animals), returned to the wild or retained by the institutions primarily for re-use in another project. In 2022, 76% of all animals used were returned to their normal environment compared with 48% in 2021, 55% in 2020, and 66% in 2019; and 9% were re-used compared with 7% in 2021 and a range of 4.7% to 12.8% in previous years since 2014. 

Re-homing (i.e. adopting animals into a home environment) after use in RTT has been encouraged for a few years and data, collected since 2018, shows this excellent opportunity is on the increase: 43, 111, 172 in the first 3 years and 599 in 2022. (The 2021 data of 3,812, of which 2,916 were fish, is believed to be due to the Covid-19 interruptions on research programmes.)


Animals bred but not used

From 2019 onwards amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, for increased transparency reasons, required statistical reporting on animals that were bred for RTT but not in the end used and subsequently euthanised. In 2022, on top of the 392,344 animals used for RTT, a further 134,845 animals were bred but not used. (These are mainly mice, followed by rats and then fish.) This 34% extra in 2022 is much less than the 58% extra in 2021, 61% in 2020 and the 50% in 2019. It is believed that 2021 and 2020 numbers were augmented by the Covid-19 interruptions on research programmes. Although the only 34% extra in 2022 looks like an excellent improvement, the ‘look’ is distorted by the 2022 preponderance of use of farm animals in veterinary research.

It should be noted that there are a number of very valid reasons why animals will be bred but not used; for example, they may be the wrong sex, or not carry the desired genetic trait, or need to be kept for breeding purposes, or are ‘sentinel animals’ used for health screening of other animals in the group. However, ANZCCART NZ hopes that for ethical reasons any other overbreeding is kept to a minimum by better prediction of numbers needed which in itself results in financial savings for the institution.



For further information, please contact ANZCCART (NZ): anzccart@royalsociety.org.nz


Source: Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART)