Science conference attracts protests over tests on beagles

16:00, Mar 22 2010

Beagles being bred for drug testing at a Manawatu laboratory have led to animal rights activists protesting outside an international science conference in Auckland.

The three-day NZBio Conference began yesterday and was immediately targeted by protesters waving banners and placards against the testing carried out by speaker Allen Goldenthal.

Dr Goldenthal, who is the research director at the Valley Animal Research Centre in Himatangi, was speaking at the conference about his work with animal testing in China.

About 30 protesters from Animal Freedom Aotearoa camped outside the SkyCity Convention Centre while he spoke, and member Jasmine Gray said the group was calling for an end to testing on beagles. The beagles were kept in "unpleasant and unsanitary conditions" and taken into frightening environments for testing, she said.

"At the end of the experiment they may be killed and dissected, or sold to whoever happens to bid for them."

At Varc, Dr Goldenthal said, about 100 beagles at a time were kept for research. Some were "humanely euthanased", and others killed for testing.


The centre, which has been open for four years and breeds animals for the tests, also performs tests on rabbits. It tests drugs for humans and animals which have already passed laboratory tests and tests on rodents.

Dr Goldenthal also had a testing laboratory in the Hawke's Bay where animals not needed for testing were sold as puppies. New Zealand had one of the world's strictest regulatory regimes for animal testing, and the accusations made by the protest group were emotive and inaccurate, he said.

The alternative to the tests carried out at Varc would be to test on humans.

"Everything you take – food additives or food colouring or cosmetics – it's all gone through extensive animal testing to ensure it is safe."

Dr Goldenthal said that in the past four years, Varc had tested no more than 20 drugs for pharmaceutical companies in New Zealand, Australia and America.

"Non disclosure policies" prevented him from naming products, but the centre had just completed testing an anti-cancer drug on 24 rabbits that he hoped would save the lives of millions of people.

China wanted to tap into the world's pharmaceutical market and Dr Goldenthal was currently working with Chinese regulatory bodies to improve the country's welfare standards for animal testing.

China had the ability to mass produce drugs quicker and cheaper than other countries, and Dr Goldenthal said New Zealand should work on strengthening its relationship with China, and sharing its knowledge and expertise with China in the field of animal testing.

The Dominion Post