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The recent announcement of the Emissions Reduction Plan by the NZ Government has created a ripple of varying responses across Aotearoa. Yet, there is one area that has not been publicly addressed that will have devastating effects for animals used in science and as Executive Director of the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society, I feel compelled to bring this issue to light.

The part of the plan that will drive more animal experiments is that nearly $340 million is going to be spent on setting up a Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. It will research ways technology can be used to, for example, cut methane on the farm.

More money being spent on technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions of animals used in agriculture translates to, more experiments on animals. 

It may surprise people to learn that one of the most used animals for science in NZ are cows, with approximately 100,000 of these animals being used each year! This makes sense when you realise the sad priority of research aimed at keeping profits high despite the urgency to take action against climate change.  

This drive to make money overrides the wellbeing of our planet and animals. 

To help you visualise this, here are just a few examples of experiments done on animals used in farms:

The fistulation of animals: Here researchers essentially cut window-like holes in the side of ruminant animals’ bodies such as cows, sheep, and deer. This way the contents of the animal’s stomach can be accessed by simply opening the window and reaching inside. It treats animals as if they are money making machines, rather than sentient beings as NZ law states. 

This technique is used to try and investigate how the ‘efficiency’ of their digestion,1 and their milk production can be increased2 and explore how greenhouse gasses can be reduced.3

It’s used in many other ways including researching how the diet of cows influences the amount of nitrogen in their urine4, and even tracking the times and places they urinate.5All in the hopes to lower impacts on water quality without having to lower the number of animals.

Image by: Tara Nzavs

Photo of fistulated cows taken at a Lincoln University facility in Feb 2020.

The use of respiratory chambers: For example, thousands of sheep have been put in respiratory chambers to measure the amount of methane that they produce in research aimed at breeding sheep who burp and fart less.6

Genetically modifying animals: For example, transgenic cows have been cloned and used to try and change milk quality.7

Other examples:

  • Cows have had urine sensors glued around their vulva in research aimed at trying to reduce nitrogen levels in their urine.8
  • Cows were fed a toxic component to see if it would make them too sick if it was used on pastures to reduce nitrogen loss (yes it did).9
  • Severely underfeeding dairy cows for three weeks to test if limited pasture time decreases nitrogen loss. They lost between 0.5 to 1kg of weight each day.10 
  • Raising 200 calves on different diets and killing them, just to measure if the diet had influence on their growth speed and overall emissions.11
  • Sheep spent 2 to 3 days in metabolism crates and respiratory chambers and afterwards had rumen fluid taken with a stomach tube twice, to see if composition of rumen bacteria influences methane emissions.12
  • Sheep were repeatedly injected with a developed “vaccine” to reduce methane emissions, and repeatedly blood samples and samples of stomach fluid were taken, before all were killed.13

Obviously, the entire plan isn’t bad, some positive steps include millions of dollars being spent to help low-income families shift to electric and hybrid vehicles. But while this is a shift in the right direction, transport is on the low emitting side compared to agriculture. 1

In 2020 New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions were 78.8 million tonnes of CO₂-e. Of that, agriculture made up 50% and transport made up 16.7%. Dairy cattle alone produced more greenhouse gasses than transport (23.5% compared to 16.7% in 2020).14

The solution to this huge problem is clear – reduce the number of animals being farmed but instead we’re chucking on a temporary plaster and trying to find ways of exploiting animals in a way that causes less environmental degradation. 

Better yet, the government could be making the bold move to encourage Kiwis to go vegan, but perhaps our country isn’t ready for that. This leads me to wonder if we’ll be ready for it when it’s simply too late.

When it comes to animal experiments, vegans are having an incredibly positive impact. By not buying animal products, vegans are helping decrease the demand for cruel animal experiments. If we didn’t eat animals, then the need for experiments to make farming animals as profitable as possible, wouldn’t exist. 

At NZAVS the animal agriculture industry can’t sway or override our values so we can proudly and boldly encourage veganism as one of the many ways that Kiwis can help end cruel animal experiments. 

You can learn more about animals used in science for agriculture here

About the Author:

Tara Jackson (Kāti Māmoe) is the Executive Director of the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS), NZ’s leading charity defending animals used in science. NZAVS works to end animal experimentation in Aotearoa. 

References 

Tara Jackson is the Executive Director for the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society. Tara has worked for NZAVS since 2015 and has extensive knowledge of the animal experimentation industry. She has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and has a strong passion for animal rights, human rights and environmental protection. The combination of her scientific background, empathy for animals and a strong dislike for injustice make her a driven and determined advocate for innovative, animal-free research, testing and teaching methods. She is also founder of the animal rights group, the Animal Justice League NZ, which works alongside the many other anti-rodeo groups nationwide to help end the animal abuse involved in rodeos.