Give hope to research animals: Animal Justice Party’s plea for time limits

Ready for retirement: the push to let lab animals leave after six years or service.
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Andy Meddick will tomorrow in Parliament push for research animals to be able to retire from Victorian testing labs after six years, and then to allow rescue services to find them homes. Isabella Mirabile reports

Research animals should be allowed to find a home after they’ve done their time in testing laboratories, rather than being killed, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick says.

Mr Meddick has given notice that tomorrow in Victoria’s Upper House he’ll ask for a six-year limit to be placed on the working life of lab animals, at which time they would be offered to rescue services.

Mr Meddick’s electoral officer, Gary Hall, said accountability was important.

Essentially, we are pushing for transparency … the outcome of what happens to those animals is not for public knowledge and not reported on currently.

“It’s all very closed shop … it’s a federally run facility,” he said.

According to the 2017 Animal Welfare Victoria figures, the most recent data available, more than 375,000 animals were killed at the conclusion of their test run in 2017.

More than 1.5 million animals were used for teaching, research and testing that year, the figures show. These include thousands of dogs and cats and other animals commonly kept as domestic pets.

Give hope to research animals: Animal Justice Party's plea for time limits
Animals used for education, testing and research in 2017, according to Animal Welfare Victoria.

The Animal Justice Party is calling on the Government to ensure laboratories implement a registration system that notifies shelters when an animal has done its time in testing and is ready to be rehomed.

Convenience killing is rampant … instead of rehoming, it’s convenient to kill them instead

“It’s a space we can’t even look at from an activists’ perspective … it is federally protected.”

Organisations licensed to use animals for testing are universities, hospitals, the government department of agriculture and the environment, research institutions, schools and private companies.

“It’s a sad reality,” Mr Hall said.

Give hope to research animals: Animal Justice Party's plea for time limits
Andy Meddick.

The party is also calling on the government to ensure animals go into mandatory retirement at the age of six. This gives them “a chance to have a life,” Mr Hall said.

“If they live any longer there [testing laboratories], they are past the opportunity of having a filling and enriched life … past 8-10 years, you have a broken animal and it’s pretty much impossible to rehome them.”

At the moment, there is no requirement for them to released.

The party is also pushing for the government to introduce a registration system allowing laboratories and rescue groups to track down animals currently used in medical research and animals that have been released.

Ultimately, they want animal testing eradicated.

“There is heaps of information that undermines the current testing practices,” said Mr Hall

Deakin and Monash Universities animal testing units did not respond to requests for comment.

Give hope to research animals: Animal Justice Party's plea for time limits
Graph from Animal Welfare Victoria’s report on 2017.

On the agenda for Victoria’s Upper House sitting tomorrow is Mr Meddick’s notice of motion asking the House to recognise that the rehoming of research animals is currently optional and that many animals are being killed unnecessarily.

According to the agenda, he will call on the Government to ensure—

(a)   laboratories notify rescue groups when animals have finished their utility as research subjects;

(b)   every animal used in medical research, and all animals who are retired or no longer wanted due to age or physical and mental condition, are offered for release, rescue or adoption for a certain time, to be determined in consultation with the companion animal working group;

(c)   animals used in medical research go into mandatory retirement at the age of six; and

(d)   a registration system is established to allow laboratories and rescue groups to trace animals used in and released from medical research.