Pfizer Bans Forced Swim Test After PETA Campaign

Pharma Giant Joins Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Others in Saying No to Future Near-Drowning Tests

For Immediate Release:
October 31, 2019

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Short Hills, N.J.

Pfizer has announced that it won’t conduct, commission, or fund the widely discredited forced swim test following a year-long PETA campaign that included spirited protests with “mice” in swim tanks and a dancing “CrapStick”—a spoof on the company’s ChapStick product—a shareholder resolution, an appearance at Pfizer’s annual meeting, half a million e-mails from consumers, TV ads, and more.

In the forced swim test, 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—but the test is less accurate than a coin toss in determining the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. In the 18 years that publications show the company used the test, it didn’t lead to any marketable drugs to treat human depression.

In discussions last year, PETA urged Pfizer executives to ban the test, but the company refused to do so until this week, when it issued a statement to the media. In it, Pfizer claimed that company officials told PETA in February about the test ban, even though that contradicts an April STAT news story that quotes the company as stating that a ban on the forced swim test is “not in the best interest of the company, its patients or shareholders.”

“PETA is delighted that Pfizer recognized this week that terrifying animals into thinking they might drown is both cruel and bad science,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “PETA looks forward to seeing the company embrace a new era of animal-free, evidence-based research that will actually lead to treatments for human who suffer from depression.”

Pfizer joins Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Roche, AstraZeneca, Sage Therapeutics, Novo Nordisk A/S, and Boehringer Ingelheim in banning the test after talks with PETA, which is now calling on Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb to follow suit.

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

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