Twenty-one universities, institutes of technology, non-profits, Crown Research Institutes, government organisations, umbrella bodies, research funding organisations and learned societies commit to communicate openly about animal use.
New Zealand will be the first country outside Europe with an animal research openness agreement.
The agreement was launched today in Queenstown at the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) 2021 conference.
The objective of the Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand was to ensure the public was well informed about animal research (including the benefits, harms, and limitations).
Topics such as the role animal research played in the process of scientific discovery, how research was regulated in New Zealand, and what researchers and animal care staff did to promote positive animal welfare should be addressed, according to the agreement.
Communication should be realistic about the ethical considerations involved (including that of the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement).
Research done aimed to benefit humans, animals, and the environment.
New Zealand's agreement was modelled on the UK's 2014 ground-breaking Concordat on openness on animal research led by Understanding Animal Research.
Similar agreements followed in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and France, with the assistance of the European Animal Research Association.
"Public confidence in animal research depends on the scientific community taking part in an on-going conversation about why, and how animals are used," Chair of the New Zealand Board of ANZCCART and Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), University of Otago, Professor Pat Cragg said.
"Through signing this openness agreement, the signatory organisations have committed to having this conversation with the public."
There were mixed responses from New Zealand delegates when the UK Concordat was launched, Cragg said.
"Responses ranged from 'yes we must do this too' through to 'let's be very cautious about this'".
"When I returned to the New Zealand Board as chair in early 2020 I was delighted to see such an agreement was well under way.
"Now, seven years on from the Concordat, the NZ Openness Agreement is ready to launch."
The working group and many institutions involved in the consultation phase that had "worked tirelessly" to bring the agreement to fruition were to be congratulated, Cragg said.
"Being open about why and how we use animals in research and teaching is just so important."
Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and animal researcher, University of Auckland, was "delighted that Aotearoa New Zealand finally has an Openness Agreement".
She said she applauded the many organisations and institutions that had signed up and hoped the Agreement would encourage and support researchers and organisations to be more open about their work involving animals.
"In doing so, the public will be better informed not just about the incredible research being done in New Zealand for the benefit of both humans and animals, but also about the dedication and care of the many researchers and technical staff involved."
Dr Jodi Salinsky, Animal Welfare Officer and University Veterinarian, University of Auckland and Chair of the Openness Agreement Working Group, was "thrilled" to launch the Openness Agreement in New Zealand.
"This will help organisations that conduct, fund or support animal research communicate about the crucial work that is being done on the public's behalf, by dedicated researchers, technicians and animal care staff."
The judicious use of animals in research remained vital to scientific, medical, and veterinary progress and there was "no better time" than the current pandemic to help the community understand the important contribution of this work, Salinsky said.
"We look forward to the day when animals are no longer needed and honour the animals for the advances made that allow treatments, vaccinations, and cures for diseases to be found."
The Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand was published today and signed by 21 organisations from across the science sector that carried out, funded or supported the use of animals in research or teaching.
New Zealand has long been committed to maintaining and improving high standards of animal welfare, as well as undertaking world-leading research and teaching using animals, controlled under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The scientific community in New Zealand recognised the importance of demonstrating and promoting values that contributed to these animal welfare standards.
These 21 signatories have formally agreed to the Openness agreement's five commitments:
• We will be clear about why and how we use animals in research and teaching
• We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our use of animals in research and teaching
• We will enhance our communications with tangata whenua about our use of animals in research and teaching
• We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research and teaching using animals
• We will report on progress annually and share our experiences
Under each of the commitments are actions that signatories can take to fulfil them, such as identifying spokespeople who will answer questions about an organisation's use of animals; supporting researchers who would like to talk about their work using animals; including information on the role that animal research has played in announcements of scientific advances, and providing images and videos of the reality of animal research.
The Openness agreement was prepared by a working group representing 13 organisations including universities, peak scientific bodies, crown research institutes, non-profit organisations, and a multi-national bio pharmaceutical company.
Reviews were provided by the ANZCCART NZ Board and there was a twelve-week public consultation in early 2021.
Further organisations that carry out, fund, or support animal research in any way are invited to sign the Openness Agreement at any time.
The inaugural signatories are:
Department of Conservation
New Zealand Veterinary Association
Otago Medical Research Foundation
Royal Society Te Apārangi
Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington
Te Pukenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology
University of Auckland
University of Canterbury
University of Otago
University of Waikato