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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 958

Mr MILTON(10.20) —At some future date I will tell the honourable member about the Nella Dan. There has been a great deal of debate over the years on the use of animals for the purposes of research experiments and the morality of using animals for such purposes. In this respect there has been a considerable increase in the controls exercised by State governments on experimenters in Victoria. Experimenters are required to be licensed and must make half yearly reports if the experiments are performed under the authority of the Protection of Animals Act 1966. The reports must deal with completed projects and projects which are uncompleted at the end of the half yearly period. Details must be provided of the number of animals used and the fate of the animals following completion of experimentation.

As a person who has understood the role of research which is necessary and the part that animals have played in developing our understanding of the nature of human disease and ascertaining means of combating such diseases, I remain concerned at the need for experimentation in such a wide range and number of animals. I received a copy of the Victorian State Government's third report entitled `Statistics of Animal Experimentation, Victoria', for the period July 1984 to July 1985. I wish to comment on that report tonight. In the first place I believe it is a rather unfortunate omission that the report baldly presents these statistics without a written commentary. The statistics fail to reveal the need for the experiments and, in consequence, the reader is left with a range of unanswered questions. With regard to the number of animals used for uncompleted experimental testing programs, the total was 123,633. For the same period the total number of animals used for completed experiments was 207,167. Presumably, unless some animals were used for more than one experiment, the total number of animals used for experimental purposes in Victoria during 1984-85 was 330,800. The mouse was the animal most frequently used, with a total of 199,968, followed by 57,715 rats, 32,932 domestic fowl and 20,245 sheep. Cats, dogs, pigs, bovines, guinea pigs, rabbits and marsupials also feature in a large number of experiments.

It is at least gratifying and with relief that I noted that experiments involving cosmetics and toiletries are no longer performed. However, I was disturbed to find that more than 8,368 animals were used in experiments on exposure to ionising radiation. Had a commentary on experiments been included with the statistics, it would have been possible for me to try to understand why it was necessary to study the effect of ionising radiation on animals. If it is to study the effect in order to relate the research to the effects on human beings, I would have thought that the studies on the unfortunate victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs would have yielded sufficient information. In addition, the tragic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would provide much information on the effect of nuclear radiation on human beings.

Why, therefore, do we need to experiment on animals? I also noticed from the report that there are two other categories of experiments which use large numbers of animals. Firstly, there are experiments involving interference with the central nervous system and, secondly, surgical or mechanical interference with other parts of the animal. Interference with the central nervous system involves 14,193 animals and surgical and mechanical interferences involves 15,432 animals. Again, if a commentary had been included with the report, readers could judge what was the purpose of the experiment and therefore judge the need for the experiment. It is not surprising that the greater majority of the animals used in such experimentation either die as a result of the experiment or are killed. Others are sent to an abattoir for slaughter.

Another group of statistics which caused me concern was the description of the techniques used by the experimenters. Application by mouth, injection, inhalation into the eye and on to the skin-all of these applications appear abhorrent but perhaps the worst is application to the eye, which is one of the most sensitive organs in both animals and humans. It may be asked why the Federal Parliament should be concerned with the result of a State government report. I believe that animal experimentation should be a concern of all governments and all parliamentarians. The Victorian State Labor Government has taken a positive step in publishing the statistics on animal experimentation and requiring that all experimenters be licensed. However, I believe that the statistics reveal that there could be a large number of animal experiments taking place which may not be acceptable if we were more aware of the reasons for undertaking the experiments. I hope that people who are listening or who read this speech will take steps to find out more about the experimentation and whether they are necessary or morally acceptable.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.