Bristol-Myers Squibb Bans Forced Swim Test on Animals

After PETA Campaign, Pharmaceutical Giant Pledges No More Near-Drowning Experiments on Mice and Other Animals

For Immediate Release:
January 9, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

New York

After a PETA campaign, Bristol-Myers Squibb confirmed to the organization that it has banned the widely discredited forced swim test. In the last decade, the company published papers describing at least 1,500 animals being subjected to this experiment.

The decision follows more than a year of public pressure, e-mails from PETA supporters, shareholder resolutions to ban the test from PETA and another compassionate shareholder, and ads, videos, and public protests calling for an end to the test (see this video), in which mice and other small animals are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim to keep from drowning, purportedly to shed light on human depression.

“Forcing frantic animals to swim for their lives is cruel and tells us nothing about human depression,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “Bristol-Myers Squibb joins nine other big-pharma companies that have banned this atrocity at PETA’s request, and we are now calling on Eli Lilly to follow suit.”

Between 2008 and 2017, Bristol-Myers Squibb employees published at least seven papers and submitted at least two patent applications describing the use of the forced swim test in experiments involving at least 742 gerbils, 698 mice, and 192 rats. The test has been heavily criticized by scientists who argue that floating is not a sign of depression or despair, as some claim, but rather a positive indicator of learning, saving energy, and adapting to a new environment. The test is less accurate than a coin toss in determining the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Bayer, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk A/S, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Roche, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, and Sage Therapeutics all banned the forced swim test after hearing from PETA.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals. For more information, please visit or click here.

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