After learning that Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand still allows experimenters to place small animals in inescapable beakers filled with water and make them swim, PETA is calling on faculty to ban the test.
In a letter to the university’s vice chancellor and Animal Ethics Committee, PETA points out that this test not only is egregiously cruel to the mice and rats who are forced to swim frantically for their lives but also has been scientifically refuted.
Bad Ethics and Bad Science
The experiment – originally called “the despair test” and also known as “the forced swim test” – is supposed to provide insights into human depression, but the scientists themselves are divided about interpretations of the results.
The animals paddle furiously, desperately trying to keep their heads above water, and eventually, they start to float. Some experimenters claim that animals who spend more time floating are “depressed”, but other experts agree that floating is not a sign of despair but rather an indication that animals are learning, conserving energy, and adapting to a new environment.
Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is both physically and psychologically abusive, not to mention completely irrelevant to human depression.
New Zealand animal rights groups New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society and SAFE For Animals have found that students and staff at Victoria University of Wellington have described inflicting this cruel test on mice and rats on school grounds at least seven times over the past decade.
Clubs representing more than 1,500 students at the university signed a letter calling on school officials to enact an official policy against the use of the test. The university refused to do so, which means it has fallen behind the vast majority of the scientific community.
— Sharon Murdoch (@domesticanimal) June 25, 2019
The Future of Science
Because the forced swim test lacks scientific value and causes immense suffering to animals, PETA and our international affiliates have launched a global campaign aimed at ending its use entirely. Three of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies – AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Roche – banned the test after hearing from PETA US. You can see a full list of the companies that have banned the test here. They’ve committed to no longer wasting time or money on a test method that simply doesn’t work.
We hope to see Victoria University of Wellington move in the same progressive direction.