Victory: Johnson & Johnson Ends Near-Drowning Tests on Animals

Company Abandons Cruel, Controversial Forced Swim Test After Talks With PETA

For Immediate Release:
March 20, 2019

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

New Brunswick, N.J.

After discussions with PETA, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will no longer use the widely discredited forced swim test, in which mice, rats, and sometimes other small animals are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim to keep from drowning. The company pledged not to use the test in the future in its own laboratories or in outside ones.

Johnson & Johnson joins AbbVie in ending its use of this test, and PETA is now calling on Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer to follow suit.

Johnson & Johnson and other experimenters have claimed that the forced swim test serves as a model of depression in animals and can be used to test the effectiveness of new medications for the condition, but other scientists refute this. PETA scientists reviewed published studies and found that dropping animals into water this way was less predictive than a coin toss of a drug’s effectiveness in humans. Animals used in these tests frantically 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. Eventually, most start to float.

“Johnson & Johnson has done the right thing in pulling the plug on the forced swim test, which is not just bad science but also hideously cruel,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “PETA urges Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb to follow this company’s enlightened, business-savvy lead and stop terrifying animals this way.”

Last year, Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen published an article describing how it conducted the forced swim test on mice who’d been injected with a toxin. Previous papers were published by authors affiliated with the companies in 2016, 2015, 2013, 2008, 2007, and 2006.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.

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