La Trobe University Bans Near-Drowning Test to Study Depression or Anxiety

Posted on by PETA Australia

More progress from Australia! Following conversations with PETA entities regarding the ineffectiveness and suffering associated with the forced swim test, La Trobe University officials have agreed to prohibit the use of the forced swim test to model human depression, anxiety disorders, and their treatment, in agreement with the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s guidance. La Trobe University employees’ last published paper using the forced swim test was in 2022 and officials there also confirmed that no one at the school is currently conducting the test.

The Bogus Test

In the forced swim test – sometimes called the “despair test” – mice, rats, and other small animals are often dosed with a test substance and then dropped into inescapable beakers of water. Experimenters watch as the animals frantically swim for their lives and struggle to stay afloat, in the debunked belief that this reveals something about human depression.

Ending Near-Drowning Experiments on Animals

PETA entities around the world have been pressing for an end to the use of the test globally, with actions taken including outreach by scientists, protests, PETA-proposed shareholder resolutions, and e-mails and calls from our supporters. In addition to La Trobe University’s ban, recent updates from Australia and New Zealand include:

Parliament of New South Wales—March 2024
It is now illegal to conduct new forced swim tests in New South Wales. Thanks to legislation introduced by the Animal Justice Party and advanced by Animal-Free Science Advocacy (AFSA), mounting new projects that force mice and other mammals to experience the panic of near-drowning will no longer be allowed. PETA has long protested against the cruel and flawed forced swim test and has been working with AFSA to end the use of this experiment in Australia. Learn more.

Australian Research Council—January 2024
After hearing from Animal-Free Science Advocacy, the Australian Research Council, which acts as the government’s primary non-medical research funding agency, has now endorsed the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) decision that prohibits funding any experiments that use the test to model human depression in order to study “depression-like behaviour” or anxiety disorders and their treatment. NHMRC updated its advice last year following requests by PETA and Animal-Free Science Advocacy.

AgResearch (New Zealand)—January 2024
PETA also helped put another nail in the coffin of the cruel and pointless forced swim test, aiding NZAVS in securing New Zealand’s ban on the bogus test. Thanks to the combined effort, the forced swim test is now effectively banned in one-third of Aotearoa’s research institutions, and no university in the country is using this unscientific experiment, sparing countless animals pointless torment. Learn more.

National Health and Medical Research Council—December 2023
Following requests from PETA and Animal-Free Science Advocacy starting in 2020, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) finalized its advice on the forced swim test. In its updated policy, NHMRC recognizes that the test has a significant impact on animal welfare. The policy now prohibits the council from funding any experiments that use the test to model human depression in order to study “depression-like behaviour” or anxiety disorders and their treatment. Learn more.

University of Western Australia—December 2023
After hearing from PETA and PETA US as well as Animal-Free Science Advocacy, the University of Western Australia confirmed that it has ended its use of the widely discredited and cruel forced swim test. This decision comes after over 25,000 PETA supporters wrote to the university urging it to drop the test. In a letter to PETA regarding the ban, a university representative confirmed that “UWA no longer conducts any active projects that make use of the forced swim test”. Learn more.

Help Ban the Forced Swim Test Globally

The forced swim test is purportedly conducted to study human depression and test the efficacy of antidepressants, but experts have strongly and repeatedly debunked the experiment’s validity.

Please take action by urging Australian universities to ban this worthless test.