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Tuesday, 5 September 1989
Page: 959

Senator CALVERT(3.50) —I too wish to comment on the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare report entitled Animal Experimentation, which has been quite some time in the making. It is the fourth report handed down by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare. It follows on from the controversial kangaroo report, the report on the live sheep trade, and the whales and dolphins report, which was also rather controversial. Of all the matters that have been discussed in the past, this is probably the most controversial. All matters regarding animal welfare, I suppose, are controversial in one way or the other because members of the general public get quite upset when they see animals being treated in a cruel manner. Things are no different in relation to animal experimentation.

I too would like to congratulate the staff of the Committee on the amount of work that they put into this quite detailed report. I particularly pay tribute to Paul Barsdell, who has made quite a name for himself in animal welfare circles. As the previous speaker, Senator Brownhill, said, Paul has been the linchpin of the Committee and I would like to wish him well with his new committee.

The animal experimentation debate has been around for quite some time. In the United Kingdom anti-vivisection organisations have been in existence for something like 200 years. The argument is not new and the area has always been controversial. I believe that our Committee, in conducting this investigation, has brought the matter out of the cupboard and into the open. By doing so I believe that it has had a very good effect on the animal welfare debate, and particularly the animal experimentation debate, in Australia. At times during my speech I will comment on the same things Senator Brownhill did, as I did not consult with him before making this speech. A questionnaire was sent to some 50 institutions and during the course of the investigations some 162 witnesses gave evidence. I too was interested to note that the debate made the institutions think more about the ethical matters involved in the animal experimentation debate. If our Committee did nothing else, I believe that because of our existence we encouraged organisations and institutions that conduct animal experiments to set up ethics committees which include, as Senator Brownhill said previously, lay people from the community who have an interest and who can make sure that the experiments that are conducted are worthwhile and are conducted in a proper manner.

The animal experimentation issue has been brought to the attention of the public. It has brought out into the open and dispelled some of the sensational views that have been expressed by various people who purport to represent animal welfare groups. In my opinion and that of the Committee, such issues have been blown out of all proportion by some in the media. I think most people who watch television would remember some of the video clips that were shown on some of our current affairs programs that really brought the attention of the public to some of the more controversial parts of animal experimentation such as experiments on monkeys, burning of pigs, Draize testing-matters that we found when we were conducting our inquiry were rare if not totally absent from Australia but which nevertheless brought to the attention of the Australian people concerns in relation to some of these experiments.

The Committee commenced its investigations into animal experimentation matters in 1984 but it is only over the last two years that we have really got our teeth into the matter. As a former farmer and one of those people who travelled around Australia with the Committee, I must say that I was very well educated in ways I never expected in different aspects of breeding animals. For instance, I remember very vividly our visit to the veterinary science school at the University of Sydney. When we walked into the establishment there were some 19 or 20 horses in various stages of dissection. It was a shock to the system to see headless horses all over the place. Rat houses and mice breeding establishments were the order of the day, as were dog pounds, catteries, cages full of monkeys, and sheep, cattle and rabbits. We certainly looked at a mixed bag of animals in various stages of experimentation. One or two aspects concerned me. I remember particularly the condition of one dog pound in Sydney which I believe certainly needed upgrading. I also remember at Monash University talking to the animal house keeper who was very concerned about the attitude of some of the experimenters to the animals. One particular dog was left in a very poor condition over Christmas without any attention, food or water after suffering quite a traumatic experiment.

One thing that always comes up in animal welfare debates and that has to be addressed is whether we really need to have animal experiments at all. That was one of the views that were put to us by the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies. As Senator Brownhill said earlier, sections 1.21, 1.22 and 1.23 of the report open up the whole debate and place it out there for everybody to see. In this day and age I believe that we owe a lot to animals in relation to what has been achieved by our scientists in using them in experimentation for the good of human beings. Where would we be without the millions of mice and rats that have been used for experimentation purposes for finding a cure for cancer? There is no doubt that, in the investigations into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) millions of animals, particularly mice and rats, will be used in experimentation. Research into heart disease, one of our biggest killers, uses vast numbers of dogs and pigs for experimentation. We were briefed very well on the use of dogs and pigs.

Just to give some idea of the number of animals that are used, in Victoria in 1986-87 something like 226,500 animals-from mice and guinea pigs through to pigs, primates and domestic poultry-were used in experiments. That was just in the State of Victoria. If we look at the universities that breed their own animals, in the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and University of Queensland, the central animal houses issued 96,000 animals in 1984 and the experimental and teaching universities consumed a total of 373,800 in 1984. We are talking about something that is not insignificant. Large numbers of animals of all types are being used around Australia for the good of human beings. The main thing that the Committee concluded was that, whilst we accept that animals have to be used, it is the conditions under which they are used that matter, and the recommendations accordingly reflect that view.

One of the interesting aspects of our inquiries was the evidence given about the use of specific pathogen free, or SPF, animals which are bred to be free of bacteria which could affect experiments. It is possible, by using such animals and comparing results achieved in Australia with results achieved overseas, to reduce the number of animals used for experimentation. The results so gained stand up to scrutiny. Recommendation 549 states:

The Committee RECOMMENDS that the Commonwealth Government establish a separate fund for research into the use of alternatives for animal experimentation and that grants be disbursed from this fund by a board composed of representatives of the scientific community, animal welfare organisations, ACCART and government authorities.

That, in itself, will have a great effect on the animal welfare debate in the future.

Perhaps one of the most controversial matters in the animal experimentation debate has been the use of Draize testing and the LD50 testing. Draize testing, as some of us might know, is designed and used to test the irritation of chemical compounds to the eyes. One of the graphic pieces of video film that one sees when animal experimentation is talked about on current affairs programs is rabbits having their eyes smeared with chemicals until they are irritated. I am pleased to say that Draize testing has virtually been phased out in Australia. One of the recommendations made by our Committee is that it should be completely banned. The other test, the LD50 test, is used to determine the level at which the general measure of toxicity in a dose will kill 50 per cent of the target group of animals. This test has also been the subject of very wide criticism by animal welfare organisations. The Committee recommends a ban on the LD50 test in Australia but that acute toxicity tests be allowed with ministerial approval. Both of these recommendations are quite significant.

Another matter of controversy which comes up when talking about animal experimentation is the use of native animals. We made the following recommendation:

The Committee RECOMMENDS that ACCART in co-operation with the relevant bodies with specialist knowledge draw up appropriate guidelines and standard operating procedures for the capture of wildlife and their housing, nutrition and management in captivity.

It is essential that we are able to use native animals for experimentation, not only for the benefit of human beings but also for the benefit of the animals themselves. We were privy to some of the experiments that are used. I will not go into them in detail because they were quite intricate. But the Committee was very interested to see that native animals were used in this way to benefit human beings, particularly in terms of blood pressure and heart disease.

The report also deals with the incidence of pain and stress. This is something that, I believe, will be talked about for a great length of time. This matter was raised by everybody at our hearings. It is interesting to note that there is even an International Association for the Study of Pain. If I speak for much longer, I will be subjecting the Minister for Consumer Affairs (Senator Bolkus), who is in the chamber, to a lot of pain. But I will continue and try to explain to the Senate some of the interesting aspects of this part of the report. A discussion on pain presents difficulties in respect of both definition and communication. It was interesting to note that Dr Margaret Rose, whom we got to know quite well, said:

I think it is important to note that in relation to pain we tend to use four terms . . . `pain', `suffering', `anxiety', and `stress'.

Those words were put forward on just about every occasion that people gave evidence about experimentation. It is very difficult to measure pain. Our recommendations and conclusions were that the matter of pain should be encompassed in a code of practice. We drew the following very strong conclusion:

Experiments which may cause pain of a kind and degree for which anaesthesia would normally be used in the area of medical or veterinary practice most closely related to the proposed procedure and species, must be carried out using appropriate anaesthesia.

Part of the report deals with native animals in Antarctica. Now that the Government has sought to declare Antarctica a world park, the recommendation that a code of practice be drawn up, particularly for Antarctica, is most important.

As Senator Brownhill said earlier, we received evidence from many bodies. It would be fair to say that, as a result of our hearings, universities and veterinary surgeons have banded together in a more efficient manner. I was very pleased to hear that the Australian Veterinary Association has formed a national executive and that it wishes to approach all animal welfare matters in a much more professional manner. As has been said, all universities concerned with animal experimentation have formed ethics committees. I believe that the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies (ANZFAS) has gone to a great deal of trouble. I would like to give credit to that body which has put so much evidence before us, not only on animal experimentation but also on other matters associated with animal welfare. It has gone to a great deal of trouble and effort. This body even brought in experts from around the world to put their opinions to us. It is because of interested bodies such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and ANZFAS that we were able to put together a report that, I believe, will be used by many people in the years ahead.

In conclusion, I briefly mention the use of dogs and cats in experiments-a matter that caused a great deal of concern to the people who gave evidence to us. Senator Brownhill mentioned the use of pound dogs. I noticed, when I was in the United Kingdom recently, that pound animals are not allowed to be used for animal experimentation.

The Committee considered that animals which are to be disposed of anyway would be of more use if they were saved and used for animal experimentation, thereby cutting down on the need to breed animals for that specific purpose. Dogs in particular are very helpful in the investigations into heart disease. Senator Brownhill touched on the matter of cats, and the reasons we recommended that cats be bred rather than impounded. I certainly think that that would be supported by the Chinese community. The whole debate is summed up in the three major recommendations-13.46; 15.57 and 16.15-that appear on pages xvii and xviii.

Senator Bolkus —Don't read them out.

Senator Brownhill —Read them out. I would like to hear them.

Senator CALVERT —I will read them out for Senator Brownhill's benefit. Recommendation 13.46 states:

The Committee recommends that all States and Territories upgrade animal welfare legislation, and establish animal welfare advisory councils and departmental animal welfare units as has been done in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

It was interesting to note, during our investigations, that New South Wales, with its codes of practice and in all matters relating to animal welfare, was the trendsetter for the rest of Australia. Recommendation 15.57 states:

The Committee recommends that the system of controlling animal experimentation in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia be extended to the other States and Territories. This system is based on upgraded legislation; incorporation of a code of practice in regulations; the accreditation and licensing of institutions in which animal experimentation is conducted; and the appointment of inspectors to monitor the work of ethics committees, animal house facilities and practices, and the conduct of animal experimentation.

That too is very important. In my State of Tasmania, the new President of the RSPCA, Edyth Langham, has been calling on the Government to upgrade its Cruelty to Animals Act, which is lacking in quite a few areas. If Tasmania adopted the systems in place in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia it would go a long way to satisfying those concerned people in Tasmania. The other most important recommendation-recommendation 16.15-states:

The Committee recommends that future revisions of the Code of Practice be carried out by a national conference consisting of representatives of governments, institutions which conduct animal experimentation, experimenters, animal house staff, specialist societies, animal welfare organisations, educational organisations and funding bodies and that final approval for those revisions be given by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments . . .

The hardest part of that would be getting them all together. If that is achievable it will go a long way to making the animal welfare debate and particularly animal experimentation that much better. There is no question that we have to tighten up controls. We have to minimise cruelty. We have to take away the suspicions of the past because these experiments and so-called acts of cruelty have been conducted behind closed doors. That is why this matter has become so contentious. Particularly in the United Kingdom, there have been acts of vandalism and criminal acts against animal experimentation houses. In fact, some of them have been burnt down. People's cars have been vandalised. People's lives have even been threatened. That has not been the case in Australia. We are aware that some animal housekeepers and experimenters have been threatened. Thank heavens we have not seen any gross acts of vandalism or criminal activity. The evidence in this document brings everything out into the open and allows people to debate this matter publicly, to answer the queries and respond to the accusations made. A forum such as a Senate Select Committee is, as Senator Brownhill said earlier, the only way that animal welfare matters can be considered. This is a service to not only the experimentation industry in Australia but also the animals.

Question resolved in the affirmative.