Ahead of their 94th anniversary (18 November), iconic Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse have been used in a new campaign by PETA to highlight the cruelty rodents endure in forced swim experiments.
PETA US Senior Social Media Artist Tiani Hernandez has created a satirical new cartoon as part of PETA UK’s campaign to persuade pharmaceutical companies and universities to ban the notorious tests.
Reflective of the suffering of real-life mice and rats used in forced swimming tests, the image depicts a panicked Mickey saying, “Oh gosh, Minnie! This sure isn’t swell,” and a desperate Minnie calling, “Help, Mickey! I’m drowning.”
What Is Forced Swimming?
Hernandez’s illustration portrays real life, not fantasy. In the widely debunked tests, experimenters induce panic in vulnerable small animals such as mice and rats, who may or may not be dosed with a test substance before being dropped 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.
This is done under the erroneous assumption it can reveal something about mental health conditions in humans. After the test, experimenters kill the animals – either by gassing, blunt force trauma to the head, an overdose of anaesthetic, or by breaking their necks – to study their brains.
Now Is the Time to Ban This Bad Science
Forcing rodents to swim for their lives inside glass containers is a poor model for human mental health issues, and the forced swim test has been strongly criticised by the scientific community. Experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have called for researchers to seek alternative methods in the search for new antidepressant drugs, recognising that the test could rule out the discovery of effective new drugs for humans.
How You Can Help
Following discussions with PETA entities, 15 companies and several universities, including King’s College London, have declared that they don’t intend to use the forced swim test, which some previously used for depression research, in the future.
PETA UK is calling on the University of Bristol and the University of Bath to follow suit. Join us in taking action for mice and rats: