Thousands of people have protested from Kaitaia to Invercargill today to show their anger over plans to test synthetic party drugs on animals.
The protesters were marching against the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which regulates the sale of party pills and synthetic cannabis and makes provisions for the testing of these drugs on animals.
Under the new law, manufacturers have to prove their drugs are safe, but a proposed amendment to ban animal testing was voted down in Parliament.
Under the legislation, tests on animals can only be carried out when there are no alternatives.
Crowds of people and their pets turned up at Parliament, while in Christchurch more than 1000 people gathered in Cathedral Square.
They included many with rabbits and dogs, some with painted faces and others wearing stuffed animal ears, chanted and waved placards adorned with pictures of animals and reading ''I don't want to die for someone to get high''.
Dog groomer Julie Vickers was at the protest with her miniature poodle, Luck, and said the Government needed to find other ways of testing the drugs.
''To me there's got to be another way than doing this sort of testing on animals who can't speak for themselves.
''These guys have personalities, they have feelings, they feel.
''I'm a dog groomer so I know when dogs are stressed as well; you learn to read signs and things when you start to get into the world of dogs and it's not just dogs it's all animals.''
She said people died from medical tests in the past ''so what makes them think this is any safer?''
''Also, the fact that it's for recreational drugs, it's not even something that's going to save a life, it's actually something that's destroying a life, so why test it on anyone, even an animal?''
Organised by Helping You Help Animals (HUHA), and Safe, marches were also held in Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Taupo, Queenstown, Hamilton, Levin, Kerikeri, Timaru and Invercargill.
Huha spokeswoman Carolyn Press-McKenzie said many people were ''distraught'' and had given up once the legislation passed, but HUHA said it still needed to be heard.
''We're only little, but we're very strong... We knew that there was a lot of passion behind it and we knew that New Zealand cared and felt as thought hey hadn't been heard so this gave them the avenue, I guess, to speak out.''
Organisers presented a list of alternatives to animal tests to Act leader John Banks - an outspoken critic of animal testing.
''It may cost more, but when you are dealing with people who are ultimately making profits on drugs it really doesn't matter, I don't think to society if it costs them a little more, it might be a good thing.''
Press-McKenzie said they had spoken with National's Todd McClay yesterday, though no National MPs came to meet them today.
Banks told the crowd at Parliament that people had an obligation to protect animals, life's ''most vulnerable''.
Green Party MP Mojo Mathers and Labour's Ian Lees-Galloway also spoke to the protesters.
In Christchurch, New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society national officer manager Stephen Mason said he was ''overwhelmed'' by the turnout.
Some businesses had closed for the afternoon to allow their staff to attend, he said.
Mason hoped public pressure would make politicians take notice and ban testing party pills on animals.
Among those at the march was Hilary Calvert and her two St Bernards, Leo and Penny.
Calvert said she had never protested in her life, but as an animal lover she felt she could not stand by.
''It's uncomprehendable to me. It's not right [animal testing],'' she said.
''It's very important for us to be here. They [animals] need a voice.''
Carolyn Palmer took the day off work to attend and brought her bearded collie, Sassy, and her daughter's rottweiler, Kojo, along.
She said party pills should be banned.
''Testing on dogs is extremely cruel. In this day and age, I can't believe it's still happening,'' she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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