Protests planned against animal testing

By Stuart Whitaker -
Protesters plan to march against the testing of legal highs on animals.
Protesters plan to march against the testing of legal highs on animals.

Protesters around the country will march against the testing of "legal highs" on animals next Tuesday.

The newly passed Psychoactive Substances Law aims to regulate the sale of party pills and synthetic cannabis.

The law requires manufacturers to prove their products are safe or pose only a low risk to consumers before being able to sell them in New Zealand.

An amendment to the bill to rule out the use of animal testing data to prove the safety of legal highs was tabled by the Green Party prior to the passing of the law, but it was voted down.

Anger remains among animal welfare organisations that provisions for animal testing as a means of establishing that proof remains.

Organisations including HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) and Safe are behind the marches, and Tauranga animal campaigner Elly Maynard is also adding her voice to the protests. Elly established Sirius Global Animal Organisation - an organisation committed to the classification of dogs as being "not for human consumption" throughout the world. The organisation is now an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Before testing on animals can take place, a certificate will have to be obtained from the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee. But the point, says Elly, is that testing recreational drugs on animals is vastly different to the testing of pharmaceutical drugs.

"The UK refuses to grant licences for anyone wanting to test legal highs on animals - if they can't do it, why can they in New Zealand?" she says.

"And what is meant by the required proof of safety - what is required for proof? Is it sufficient 'proof' that a mouse, rat or dog stays alive? Their anatomy is so different to ours.

"The most dangerous part is that they will be testing the drugs that will do the most damage to humans - they are not going to test things that are going to be harmless."

Sirius made a written submission to the Health Select Committee in respect of the Bill. Elly argued that testing party pills on animals was not only abhorrent and cruel, but also unnecessary as other, non-animal tests are available that are both faster and less cost intensive.

Safe executive director Hans Kriek has also hit out at the new law, saying animals are likely to pay with their lives for these drugs to be tested.

"Animals should not suffer just because drug manufacturers want to get rich by getting people high," he has said.

The ethics committee's chairwoman, Virginia Williams, has said animal testing is necessary, well-regulated, and done to ensure the safety and quality of products for both humans and animals.

Representatives from HUHA will march in Wellington on Tuesday and at Parliament will present what they say is conclusive evidence that animal testing of party pills is not necessary.

Protesters in Tauranga will meet behind the fountain opposite Starbucks on The Strand at noon next Tuesday before moving on to Mid City Mall.

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