Government faces calls to ban drowning tests on animals, fueling ethical outrage

The government is facing calls to ban a controversial form of animal testing amid growing ethical outrage.

The forced swim test involves dropping a mouse or rat into a glass of water from which it cannot escape and timing how long the animal tries to stay afloat.

It is impossible for the animal to get out and the test is designed as a test to see how effective antidepressants are. Animal rights activists have long claimed that the science of the process is flawed and that the test does not yield accurate data.

Several universities no longer carry out the test, which is used to try to determine which antidepressants are most effective. All animals are sacrificed within one week of testing.

The Home Office is responsible for animal testing and grants licenses to allow organizations to carry out specific tests. A committee is expected to give advice soon on whether the test should still be allowed.

The Telegraph has learned that at least two leading universities have performed the procedure in 2022. University College London (UCL) has performed the experiment 31 times in 2022, while the University of Bristol has performed 189 tests, data obtained by Freedom of Information shows. Requests.

Research not ‘ethically justified’

Newcastle University is one of the institutions that stopped using the test, saying: “We cannot foresee any research where this test is proposed or can be scientifically or ethically justified.”

“The forced swim test is cruel and unnecessary. Major universities are stopping using it, and the Home Office has commissioned a review, and rightly so,” said Dr. Julia Baines, PETA Science Policy Manager.

The charity is also calling on universities to “adopt modern, animal-free methods”.

The Universities of Bath and Edinburgh are also licensed and have taken the test in the last five years, but not in 2022.

The University of Bath told The Telegraph this is due to “a legitimate gap in the research programme”.

Different points of view

A spokesman for the University of Bristol said: “We acknowledge that there are different views on the use of animals in research, including some concerns about whether it is ethical.

“The University of Bristol has a successful track record of translating scientific discoveries into real-world breakthroughs. Whenever possible, we rely on non-animal methods, for example, computer models, cells grown in the lab, or human volunteers.

“When these methods are not adequate to address scientific gaps, and therefore only when absolutely necessary, we use animals in research to improve our understanding of health and disease in both humans and animals.

“This includes cardiovascular and cancer research, diseases associated with infections and immunity and, in the case of forced swimming, significant advances in the treatment of depression and other stress-related illnesses.

“We are committed to a culture of openness and transparency regarding the research that takes place here in Bristol, ensuring that animals are treated with compassion and respect.

“We keep up with the latest thinking on all aspects of animal research (including welfare advances) and have robust and comprehensive ethical review processes in place for every project.”

Government seeking advice

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK is committed to protecting animals in science and ensuring that animal research is only carried out where there is no viable alternative. Animal research supports development of new medicines, public safety and environmental protection”. atmosphere.

“We have commissioned the Committee on Animals in Science to advise us on the use of the forced swim test and will consider the advice when we receive it.”

UCL did not respond to a request for comment.


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