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The majority of New Zealanders do not want recreational drugs tested on animals, a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.
A total of 44.3 per cent of those polled did not want cosmetic and recreational drugs tested on animals, and another 29.4 per cent said animal testing was not acceptable under any circumstances.
The poll result came two weeks after Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said party pills would be tested on animals before going on sale because human safety was "paramount".
But the regulatory body for ethical animal treatment said strict criteria could restrict such tests on dogs and rats.
National animal ethics advisory committee chairwoman Dr Virginia Williams said companies had to prove a cost benefit before research, testing and teaching could be done.
Dr Williams welcomed the Herald-Digi-Poll survey results but queried understanding of the issue.
"I wonder if people realise that every time they get their children vaccinated or their dogs and cats vaccinated, all that has been tested on animals."
She applauded shoppers for showing more consideration in their choices but said many products would not include animal testing labels.
"I'm really pleased to hear that 44 per cent of people are checking but I'm surprised they can find the information.
"I think it's great that people check and make their own decisions and I think it's really important that people take an ethical approach to this sort of thing.
And the more they do, the more pressure will come on for people to find alternatives."
Attempts were being made to find ways of testing medicines and drugs such as those used in chemotherapy without using animals, Dr Williams said.
"But part of the thing that makes it slow is not finding alternatives but having them validated by the regulatory powers."
She said many people felt more comfortable with animal testing once they knew more about the strict regulations controlling it .
Regulations required in some cases that animals bred purely for testing be used, but the testing proposals had to go before one of about 33 animal ethics committees.
The committees included a vet, an animal welfare representative and a lay person, as well as representatives of the product requiring testing.
"The main thing they look at is a cost benefit analysis.
"They look at the cost to the animal in relation to the proposed benefit. When you're looking at cat vaccines [for example], you are looking at providing health for a large majority of animals at the expense of a very few."
Dr Williams said New Zealand animal testing regulations under the Animal Welfare Act were strong.
"But New Zealand is a little bit different in that most of our research is agricultural-based."
Last year 37 per cent of the 327,000 animals used in research, testing and teaching in New Zealand died or were killed during projects.
- By Natalie Akoorie of NZ Herald