Great News for Animals in New Zealand, Thanks to the Work of PETA Scientists

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3 min read

PETA has helped put another nail in the coffin of the cruel and pointless forced swim test, aiding the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) in securing that country’s first-ever ban on the bogus test.

What’s the result of our combined efforts? The forced swim test is now effectively banned in one-third of New Zealand’s research institutions, and no university in the country is using this unscientific experiment, sparing countless animals pointless torment.

It’s a watershed moment in New Zealand and another huge win for sound scientific research.

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 they swim frantically for their lives and struggle to stay afloat, in the debunked belief that this reveals something about human depression.A cartoon illustration featuring an experimenter drowning mice in the forced swim test

“PETA and NZAVS have a common goal—to see an end to the exploitation of animals. When we work together, we are a powerful force to be reckoned with: He tōtara wāhi rua he kai nā te ahi—unity is strength.”

—Tara Jackson, Executive Director, NZAVS

How Was This Important Development Achieved?

PETA provided NZAVS with critical scientific advice on the pointless cruelty of the forced swim test. The New Zealand group worked tirelessly for four years and collected more than 25,000 signatures on a petition supporting a ban on the test. It then submitted the petition to the New Zealand Parliament, which called for a public hearing to discuss a nationwide ban.

PETA scientists, led by Dr. Emily Trunnell, director of Science Advancement & Outreach, were among the experts who delivered testimony on the disgraced test. But Parliament ultimately decided against a nationwide ban.

Undeterred, PETA continued to work with NZAVS, changing tactics and engaging key industry stakeholders. Once again, Dr. Trunnell was instrumental in presenting evidence to members of New Zealand’s animal science and research community.

A white rat being held by someone's hand

As a result, AgResearch, the largest animal ethics committee in New Zealand, banned the forced swim test. The move makes it impossible for more than a third of all research facilities in the country to use the test since this committee must approve how institutions under its jurisdiction use animals for experimentation.

Additionally, no universities in New Zealand are now using the forced swim test, a dramatic and needed change for compassionate, fact-based scientific exploration. NZAVS won a 2022 Lush Prize for this accomplishment. In appreciation, the group sent a thank-you card signed by thousands of supporters to universities across the country for steering clear of the forced swim test.

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 questioned the experiment’s validity.

Please take action and urge France-based drugmaker Sanofi to join some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies by banning this worthless test.

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