Key draws line over testing highs on animals

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 09:41 05/05/2014
John Key
PHIL REID/Fairfax NZ
JOHN KEY: "It's one thing to test on an animal if you're developing a life-saving drug for cancer, it's quite a different issue for a recreational drug."
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Prime Minister John Key says if psychoactive substances can't be tested solely on rats, they won't be tested on animals at all.

The Government is set to pull all 41 remaining synthetic-high products off New Zealand shelves when it passes legislation under urgency tomorrow.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced last weekend that all synthetic drugs would be banned within two weeks until they are proven safe. He acknowledged legislation, passed last year, did not go far enough.

It was unclear last week whether the legislation would extend to banning animal testing of the products, despite Opposition calls to do so.

Today Key confirmed no synthetic products would be able to be manufactured in New Zealand, because animal testing would not be allowed.

"You have to have that testing regime, because in the end, you can't ban them by name, substance or chemical formula because that can all change," Key said on Breakfast.

The Ministry of Health provided advice to Key's office over the weekend, that said animal testing was necessary to prove whether a substance was low-risk.

"I said I was pretty uncomfortable with that, as did the minister [Dunne]," Key said.

"In the end we sort of agreed rats might be okay, anything else is out.

"Over the weekend, health came back to both of us and said 'in the end, we can't tell you it's low-risk if you only test on rats, you have to test on rabbits'.

Key said if that was the rule, there would be no animal testing on the drugs. Cabinet would discuss the issue today.

"If a product needs to be tested on an animal and that's the only way for the health department to confirm it's low-risk, then you can't manufacture it in New Zealand," he said.

"It's one thing to test on an animal if you're developing a life-saving drug for cancer, it's quite a different issue for a recreational drug."

Labour's animal welfare spokesman Trevor Mallard said the government "U-turn" over animal testing was a win for the opposition.

He credited a Labour-initiated petition against animal testing for the Government backdown.

The petition gained 40,000 signatures within 48 hours of it's launch, Mallard said.

"This is a great victory for the thousands of New Zealanders who want to stop drug dealers testing highs on animals either here or offshore," said Mallard.

The issue of animal testing has been fraught since the legal-high legislation was introduced about 18 months ago.

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The Psychoactive Substances Bill became law last July. The bill passed almost unopposed - only then ACT leader John Banks voted against it on the grounds of its effect on animals.

Through the debate of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, Parliament supported a supplementary order paper from Labour to send the issue of animal testing back to select committee for consideration.

- Stuff

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