A mischief of PETA supporters wearing white dust suits and enormous masks resembling rats and mice scurried to the Home Office to demand that the home secretary, who is responsible for regulating experiments on animals, develop a policy that prevents the licensing of the widely discredited forced swim test as part of its upcoming review. The move would spare countless animals who are forced to swim before being killed in laboratories.
Test Forces Animals to Swim Before Being Killed
In the forced swim test, experimenters induce panic in vulnerable small animals, who are put into inescapable cylinders of water and made to swim, terrified they will drown. They attempt to climb the steep sides of the container and even dive underwater to look for an escape. But there is none.
The test is done under the erroneous assumption that it can reveal something about mental health conditions in humans. Once it’s complete, experimenters kill the animals – either by gassing, blunt force trauma to the head, an overdose of anaesthetic, or breaking their necks.
Hindering Scientific Progress
The test was originally developed to measure the efficacy of antidepressant drugs but has been heavily criticised, and experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have clarified that it is not required for the development of new antidepressants and it could even hinder progress towards finding effective new treatments. Studies have also shown that the test does not reliably predict antidepressant efficacy in humans.
Every time a licence is granted to terrorise rats and mice in forced swim tests, it’s a missed opportunity to direct resources to scientifically valid, non-animal research into human mental health conditions.
Leading Scientists Refuse to Use the Forced Swim Test
Scientists are turning their backs on the forced swim test. Pharmaceutical companies and universities that have said they will not use the test include AbbVie, Pfizer, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk A/S, Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb, Bayer, Macquarie Group, King’s College London, the University of South Australia, and the University of Adelaide.
Sign PETA’s Petition to the Home Office
We’re calling on the Home Office to stop backing the archaic forced swim test and develop a policy against licensing any use of this experiment. Please join us by adding your name to our petition now: