PETA protest use of ‘cruel’ forced swim test by Bristol University outside Beacon House

The animal rights group called for the university to end the ‘cruel’ test which has been condemned by 400 academics and scientists

A PETA activist pretending to be a “mad scientist”, claiming to “work for the Animal Torturing Department at Bristol University”, has staged a demonstration outside Beacon House against the university’s use of forced swim tests.

Calling for Bristol University to end the “cruel” animal testing, the activist stood behind toy mice and beakers of water pretending to carry out the experiment which involves placing rats or mice in an inescapable long cylinder of water and measuring their response to stress.

The activist pretended to submerge the mice, spinning them around the beaker whilst shouting: “If you have noticed they can’t escape, they can’t get out, they can’t pause for breath or anything like that, they just swim and swim and swim.”

The protestor challenged the scientific validity of the test which is used to study the impact of antidepressants on behavioural despair, satirically shouting: “And do you know why, because this is just like stressed out people, stressed out people when they feel stressed, is just like being a mouse in a beaker of water with no escape”

After submerging the mice, he then demonstrated what happens after the tests are completed, claiming that “if they’re really lucky, we just tear their heads off'” and, if they’re not lucky, they “put them back in” forcing the mice to swim again for another 15 minutes.

Once the tests concluded, the activist demonstrated what happens to the mice, saying: “We don’t let them go and have a happy life … we’re gonna take their heads off now.”

Speaking to The Bristol Tab, a member of PETA said: “The forced swim test has been carried out at the University of Bristol since 2008.

“It’s recently been condemned by more than 400 scientists, academics, medical professionals and veterinarians asking to be phased out in the UK.

“The Home Office recently stated they intend to ban it in the UK in the near future.

“The University of Bristol’s student council voted against using this test at the university. Yet, the University of Bristol continues to use student funding and using taxpayer money to do this research.”

He stressed that “the University of Bristol is one of the last universities in the country using the test”, after being “shunned by the likes of Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, King’s College London.

“Essentially, the story here is time after time its shown to be unscientific. It’s shown to be cruel. It’s shown to be a waste of money. Yet, the university continued to do it anyway.”

This latest demonstration comes after the university turned down an offer from PETA of £24,000 to end the test last month, claiming that this would “compromise our academic freedom.”

PETA has deemed the test  “bad science”, and is not alone in this evaluation. Scientists at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have claimed that it is “no longer considered a model of depression”, concluding it cannot predict the efficiency of new antidepressants.

PETA are rumoured to carry out further demonstrations today in Germany where the vice-chancellor Evelyn Welch is visiting. Last year PETA activists ambushed Welch at a New York alumni event.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We recognise there are differing views about the use of animals in research, including some concerns around whether it is ethical.

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

“When these methods are not suitable to address the 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 infection and immunity and, in the case of forced swimming, advances in the understanding of stress-related disorders.

“We are committed to a culture of openness and transparency regarding the research carried out here at Bristol, ensuring the animals are treated with compassion and respect. We keep up to date with the latest thinking on all aspects of research using animals (including advances in welfare) and have robust and thorough ethical review processes in place for every project.

“More information, specifically about the use of the forced swim test can be found on the Bristol University website:”

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