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Universities are supposed to be places of education and innovation, but several Australian institutions still allow experimenters to drop mice and rats into cylinders of water just to watch how long they struggle, sometimes dosing them with drugs first.
This experiment, known as the forced swim test or "despair test", is supposed to provide insights into human depression, but scientists are divided about the correct interpretation of the results.
At first, animals panic and try to escape by attempting to climb up the sides of the beakers or even diving underwater in search of an exit. They paddle furiously, desperately trying to keep their heads above water, until eventually, they start to float.
Some experimenters claim that animals who spend more time floating are depressed, but experts reason that floating is more likely to be 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. In fact, an analysis of data from four major pharmaceutical companies shows that the forced swim test is less predictive than a coin toss at determining whether a compound would have antidepressant efficacy in humans.
Allowing such tests to continue at university or research institutions advances nothing more than cruelty to animals. After hearing from PETA and Humane Research Australia, Macquarie University, the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Griffith University have declared that they would stop subjecting mice and other animals to this test, which has proved to be as irrelevant as it is cruel.
Scientists all over the world – including at top pharmaceutical companies Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Roche – are no longer wasting time and money on this test, either.
We're asking The Florey, University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of Western Australia, and the University of Queensland to ban this archaic experiment.
Join us now by sending e-mails to executives at the below universities calling for a ban. You can contact the remaining universities by filling out the form below.