PETA activists dressed as mice jumped into the water at Bondi Beach to call out pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s defence of the forced swim test.
In a theatrical demonstration, protesters paddled out at the beach while holding signs reading, “Eli Lilly: Ban Forced Swim Tests” and “Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On.”
What Is the Forced Swim Test?
Popularised back in the 1970s, the forced swim test was supposedly designed to gauge the antidepressant qualities of drugs. It was originally called the “behavioural despair test”.
In these tests, experimenters put mice, rats, and other small animals into inescapable beakers of water and watch as they panic, trying to climb out or even diving underwater in search of an exit. They paddle furiously, desperately struggling to keep their heads above water. Eventually – likely exhausted – they float.
The test is as cruel as it is worthless. When the animals begin to float, some experimenters interpret this behaviour as a sign of despair or depression while others believe it indicates an adaptive survival strategy.
Eli Lilly’s use of this test has not helped it produce any new, approved antidepressant treatments for humans. Statistically, the test is less accurate than a coin toss in determining the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.
Between 1993 and 2019, Eli Lilly employees published at least 22 papers and submitted at least 11 patent applications describing the use of the notorious test on more than 3,300 animals – but none of the drugs tested were brought to market for depression.
What You Can Do
Top pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, AbbVie, Roche, and AstraZeneca have banned the forced swim test after hearing from PETA or international PETA entities. It’s time Eli Lilly did, too. Write to the company now and demand that it ban this cruel test immediately.