Government to outlaw animal test
The Government is removing requirements for an animal test which campaigners say leaves rabbits with irritated eyes and in some cases leads to death.
The acute toxicity test, known as the Draize test, is used to assess the amount of eye and skin irritation caused by hazardous substances. The test is normally done on albino rabbits.
The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) says the "outdated" test leaves rabbits with irritated eyes – so severe in some cases that the animals have to be killed. The group launched a campaign in May to stop what it called Government support of the Draize test.
The regulations under the Hazardous Substances Act required the Draize test to be carried out on any hazardous substance used in New Zealand.
However, the proposal to remove the requirement from New Zealand law has gone through with the passing of the Health and Safety Reform Bill on Thursday night.
The change by way of EPA Notice is expected to come into force mid-2016 when the hazardous substances changes in the Health and Safety Reform Bill come into effect, subject to public consultation.
In the past Environment Minister Nick Smith said the Draize test was not being carried out anywhere in New Zealand and had not been for a long time but said there were no immediate plans to change the legislation.
Smith said he could not justify a review of the regulations when New Zealand was moving in the "right direction" along with United Nations (UN) standards, adding that the test was used as a "last resort".
The proposed change will see the hazardous substances regulations that refer to Draize testing overseen by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) rather than Cabinet as they have been in the past.
NZAVS said the EPA has said it plans to remove any direct reference to Draize testing. Campaign manager Tara Jackson said the animal rights organisation was excited about the change.
"This isn't the end of our campaign and we aren't disappearing anytime soon, we will be keeping a close eye on these upcoming changes to make sure the EPA follow through with what the Minister has said they are going to do...
"We will keep our End the Draize petition close by in case the Government go back on their word."
Jackson said the OECD had approved two non-animal eye irritancy tests.
The EPA has also approved a test that uses human cell and tissue models, isolated eye and cornea tests as well as computer modelling.
New Zealand was now in a position to use these tests as it was no longer tied to using "unreliable Draize values", she said.
Thursday's law change follows the passing of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill in May, which banned cosmetic testing on animals.