I’ve just had the privilege of receiving a 60,000 strong petition from SAFE, NZAVS, the SPCA and their supporters (as well as a large contingent of beagles!) calling for testing of party pills and legal highs on animals to be ruled out .
The message to the Government and the Health Select Committee is clear:
New Zealanders do not want the unethical and unnecessary testing of psychoactive substances on animals.
Pills tested on dogs
Late last year we highlighted the issue of party pills potentially being tested for safety on dogs. This came as part of the Government’s process to regulate party pills through the Psychoactive Substances Bill.
While the Green Party is really supportive of better regulation to make sure party pills are safe, we also believe that evidence of safety should come from an ethical safety testing regime, one that doesn’t involve testing recreational drugs on animals.
Unlike medicines, recreational drugs, including party pills and legal highs, are optional. People do not have to take them to stay alive or well.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom have long recognised that testing recreational drugs on animals is unethical and they have banned animal testing of alcohol and tobacco. They have just confirmed that this ban applies to any recreational drugs so would include party pills and legal highs.
The science is clear that there are alternatives to animal testing that can be used in the testing of drugs before moving to clinical trials involving micro dosing humans where minute doses are given and then slowly increased in a clinical environment. These alternative to animal tests can give as good, if not better, results than animal tests do.
This is because technology has come a long way in the last 20 years.
New options available
There are now a whole host of options to test new party pills before they need to be tested on live humans or animals.
There are computer models that can predict how chemicals will impact human health, and laboratory analysis and cell experiments that can rule out a lot of the more dangerous substances.
There are also amazing microchips and models made to mimic the operation of human organs like lungs, livers, or bone marrow to understand what effect certain substances will have.
We need to remind ourselves that animals are living sentient beings able to experience pain and fear.
Many animals are also totally dependent on humans for their well-being. We have a moral obligation to ensure that animals in our care are well looked after and to avoid causing unnecessary pain or suffering to animals.
Testing involves significant pain
Testing on animals involves significant pain and suffering where animals are forced to ingest the drugs via the same route that humans take them.
The sad photos of beagles forced to wear masks to inhale drugs are a visual reminder of the suffering involved.
New Zealand has often been described as a world leader in animal welfare, and that forms an important part of our international reputation.
But in the shameful area of animal testing we are lagging behind when other countries have ruled out animal testing for cosmetics and recreational drugs.
Ruling out the use of data gained from animal testing for party pills and legal highs is clearly the right thing to and this is why I am preparing an amendment to the Bill currently being considered by Parliament so we can do just that.