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The Great Ape Project: Legislating for the Control of the Use of Non-human Hominids in Research, Testing and Teaching Animal Welfare Act 1999 (New Zealand)

Neil Wells

The Animal Welfare Act 1999 (New Zealand), which commenced on January 1 2000, provides that the use of non-human hominids in research, testing or teaching is not permitted unless the Director-General of Agriculture approves the use, and then, only if the use is in the interests of the non-human hominid itself or its species. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 originated with two parliamentary bills. The first, a private member’s bill in the name of Pete Hodgson MP, was tabled in 1997, and the second, a Government measure, was tabled a year later. Neither bill made any reference to non-human hominids. The Great Ape Project made submissions that non-human hominids be afforded similar rights to humans, i.e. not to be deprived of life, not to be subjected to torture or cruel treatment and not to be subjected to medical or scientific experimentation. Proponents and opponents of the measure argued for and against the tenet of introducing “rights” issues into what was essentially “welfare” legislation. These arguments are analysed, and the legislative process that enabled this modification is examined.