Animal experimentation must be phased out

Today Abigail supported an AJP Bill to require the right to be released for cats and dogs used in medical experimentation. This is a small step in phasing out all animal testing in our State.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:19): On behalf of The Greens, I support the Animal Research Amendment (Right to Release) Bill 2022. The aim of the bill is to require the right to be released for dogs and cats used in medical experimentation. During the ongoing medical research inquiry, we have heard of the deplorable conditions suffered by animals used in medical research. I think that most people in our community are unaware of those conditions, particularly that, as we speak, dogs and cats are being medically experimented on in this State. As the Hon. Emma Hurst noted in her second reading speech, many universities and private research facilities have long phased out the use of dogs and cats. However, in 2020 almost 1,000 dogs and 500 cats were still being kept and used in animal experimentation, just in New South Wales. In 2020 no dogs and only 75 cats were rehomed. These animals are living for unrestricted periods of time in barbaric conditions, repeatedly subject to harmful invasive medical procedures, until they die or are killed. We should be moving towards adopting new technologies that will no longer require animal medical research.

During our inquiry hearings, we repeatedly heard evidence of the scientific shortcomings of this old‑fashioned style of research. This bill is pragmatic in that it does not seek to immediately end the use of animal research but merely ensure that the animals being used for medical and scientific ends are still able to enjoy a full and fulfilling life. The bill will insert a new part into the Animal Research Act 1985 that specifically deals with rehoming, which will require researchers to take reasonable steps to prepare animals for rehoming, including ensuring that the animals are appropriately socialised, enriched and exercised while they are residing within animal research facilities. This is a vital component as, unfortunately, the current conditions that dogs and cats are kept in can leave them in a state that makes it extremely difficult for them to adapt to a normal life.

In combination with that requirement, the bill requires researchers to take reasonable steps to rehome a cat or dog once the animal is no longer being used for animal experimentation, or if it has been kept for animal research for three years—whichever is longer. Applying this time limitation will ensure that the dogs and cats being used for research, which can live for 10 to 15 years or longer, have the opportunity to live the majority of their lives in a safe, nurturing and comfortable home. Currently, animals often find themselves condemned to a lifetime of experimentation cycles. These cycles only cease once the animal dies or it ceases to be useful and is put down, which occurs due to expedience rather than any real barriers to rehoming.

I note the amendment to the bill foreshadowed by the Opposition. Although I am not convinced of the need for it, I appreciate that it will be moved in good faith. In terms of which bodies need to be consulted for the extended period of time to be granted, the better of two options has been chosen. On the basis that the amendment will be necessary in order for the Opposition to be comfortable about passing the bill, and in the hope that the bill as a whole will pass the House today, The Greens will not oppose the amendment when we get to it.

The bill will increase the transparency of an industry that is largely opaque, as we have heard during the inquiry process. It will require greater reporting around cats and dogs used in medical research as well as require greater reporting of the number of cats and dogs that are rehomed, and the reasons why each animal may not have been rehomed if they were unable to be so. Greater transparency around the use of animals in all of our industries is absolutely vital. The public and the Parliament deserve to know what is going on in these medical research facilities and to determine whether the standards agreed to by scientists meet the standards expected by the public. The animals deserve the chance to be companions, not commodities, but currently they are being commodified and used up in a brutal and morally unacceptable way. The bill will go some small but meaningful way to alleviate some of that needless suffering and equip us with greater information regarding how much longer and in what form we will support the use of dogs and cats, and other animals, in medical research.

The full transcript can be found in Hansard, here.

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