For Immediate Release:
15 July 2019 

PETA Urges Institution to Ban Cruel, Scientifically Debunked Forced Swim Test

Wellington – On Friday morning, PETA sent a letter urging Victoria University of Wellington to stop conducting the debunked forced swim test, in which mice, rats, guinea pigs, or gerbils are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim to keep from drowning, purportedly to provide insight into human depression. Recently, the animals rights groups New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) and SAFE for Animals uncovered that the university has been conducting the forced swim test, also known as the “behavioural despair test”, for at least a decade.

“Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is both physically and psychologically abusive and is irrelevant to human depression,” says PETA Campaigns Adviser Mimi Bekhechi. “PETA is calling on Victoria University of Wellington to stop harming animals and perpetuating bad science and to kick the forced swim test to the kerb.”

While some experimenters claim that animals who spend more time floating are more “depressed” than those who swim for longer, many experts argue that floating is not a sign of despair but rather an indication that animals are conserving energy and adapting to a new environment. The test is less predictive than a coin toss of human reaction to medications for depression.

Just this month, student clubs representing more than 1,500 students at Victoria University of Wellington signed a letter calling on university officials to enact a policy against the use of the forced swim test. Major pharmaceutical companies AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Roche confirmed they have banned the test after hearing from PETA, which has launched a robust campaign to end the use of the cruel test worldwide.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. A copy of the group’s letter to the vice-chancellor and the chair of the Animal Ethics Committee at Victoria University of Wellington is available upon request.

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