Peter Dunne has ruled out using a "barbaric and disgusting" method which would force animals to take lethal doses of party pills to ensure they're safe for human use.
Both rats and dogs would be subject to a lethal dose 50 per cent (LD50) test, where doses of the drug increase until half the test group dies. The method is banned in Britain and is not recognised by the OECD.
The Associate Health Minister initially told the Sunday Star-Times it was "unavoidable" that party pills would be tested on animals, including dogs.
But he confirmed today the LD50 test would not be used, labelling it "barbaric and disgusting"
"I have further made it clear there have been no decisions on other forms of animal tests and I have directed officials to look at alternatives," Dunne said.
"The story in this morning’s paper related to a set of options. There has been no decisions made about the form or shape of testing regime or the form of any animal testing," he said.
Animal testing, however, will remain an option but he stressed there was a long process of consultation to undertake.
Dunne was also quick to quash talk of a U-turn.
''It's not a back down because there's no decision made in the first place," he said
Under current laws, novel recreational drugs, or party pills, are exempt from the rules applied to pharmaceutical companies, which must prove drugs are safe for human use.
Until now, it has been up to the Government to prove party pills are unsafe but it wants to change the law, putting the burden on manufacturers to prove the pills will not cause harm.
According to a Ministry of Health report - "Regulations governing the control of novel psychoactive drugs" - outlining what testing would be needed under the law change, a designer drug "must" go through pre-clinical animals studies and it is "critical" to show a drug is safe for animals before it can be given to humans.
"At the study's completion, animals are sacrificed and tissues from all organ systems examined," the paper said.
"The Government is committed to minimal use of animal testing, but the hard truth is that scientifically, animal testing is unavoidable to prove that products are safe for human beings," Dunne told the Star-Times.
"It is an unpleasant but necessary reality."
The news has disgusted animal rights advocates.
Green Party MP Mojo Mathers described it as "barbaric".
"I really encourage people who feel that testing of party pills on dogs and other animals is unethical to speak out against this proposal. Animal testing is cruel and it's not justifiable for party pills.
"Anyone who owns a dog will know that they are intelligent, affectionate animals capable of great loyalty and trust to humans," she said.
"To contemplate subjecting them to such cruel tests that will cause very high levels of pain and suffering, all in the name of allowing people to have a legal high is, in my view, totally unethical."
SPCA Auckland chief executive Bob Kerridge also urged New Zealanders to force officials into banning the trials.
"Any test at all for this product on animals is quite frankly abhorrent," Kerridge said.
"This is a product that is of no benefit to humans. In addition to doing considerable harm to the animals, it has no beneficial outcome whatsoever. Therefore, [the testing] should not be allowed."
Legislation detailing the testing regime will be voted on early next year, following select committee debate that will allow for a period of public consultation.
- Sunday Star Times