PETA activists confront Bristol Uni’s vice chancellor in New York about forced swim tests

The activists protest that ‘not one animal leaves the laboratory alive’ after the experiment is over

On Tuesday (14th May), Bristol University’s vice chancellor, Evelyn Welch, was confronted by supporters of the animal rights campaign group PETA, calling for an end to the university’s science experiments involving rodents.

The group stormed into the VC’s reception in New York, an annual event with Bristol alumni in the United States featuring various professors giving academic talks.

The individuals held up signs saying: “University of Bristol: Ban Animal Torture” and “Bristol Uni: Drop the Forced Swim Tests” whilst chanting their demands to the VC.

PETA supporters recorded their ambush, which was posted by PETA UK to X the following morning:


The activists demand that the university stops “useless swim test experiments.”

They said that: “Animals suffer in cages until the day they are snatched out, into inescapable beakers of water where they are forced to swim.

“When the experiment is done they’re killed.”

Another member added: “Not one animal leaves it out of the laboratory alive.”

This controversy surrounding animal cruelty has been protested on university grounds recently, as a PETA supporter dressed as a scientist took to Beacon House to advocate for ending the force swim tests.

These science experiments, condemned by 400 academics and scientists, are carried out to measure the rodents’ response to stress, as they frantically try and escape from the beakers of water.

The New York protesters continued to chant at the VC, pleading: “University of Bristol to ban the near drowning experiment and embrace superior animal research.

“Evelyn Welch, please we’re begging you to stop this experiment.”

The university has carried out these experiments since 2008, however, the Home Office have stated they intend to ban the practice in the UK in the near future.

The activists continue to stress that: “These mice and rats suffer. When are you going to stop? Animals have feelings.”

The activists continue to stress that: “These mice and rats suffer. When are you going to stop? Animals have feelings.”

At the end of the video uploaded by PETA, the protestors finished by saying: “Evelyn, how do you justify torturing animals for useless science tests? They’re useless, please stop. Please have the University of Bristol stop.”

During these chants, the VC remained silent and refused to answer or address the issue.

These continuous protests are also a result of Bristol University turning down a £24,000 donation from PETA to end the forced swim tests. They reason that it “would compromise their academic freedom.”

This same ambush on the VC happened when Evelyn was last in New York, in May 2023, about these same “cruel” animal practices.

A spokesperson from the University of Bristol 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. The majority of our biomedical research uses 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 and make publicly available short summaries of all the projects approved at the university. Details relating to the number of animals used annually and case studies illustrating the types of research undertaken are provided on the university’s website. 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.”

They also wish to clarify that the university does not use forced swimming procedures to model depression or to screen for antidepressants.

The purpose of the research carried out in Bristol is to study the neurobiology of stress. The Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) for the university has reviewed the proposed research and provided ethical approval because non-animal alternatives do not exist, and the work is important in building our fundamental understanding of the effects of stress on the brain.

The research programme is also peer-reviewed by the Grant awarding body. The conclusions of the AWERB are aligned with the recent Animal Sciences Committee report on forced swimming and the response to this report by Lord Sharpe.

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

Related stories recommended by this writer:

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

Bristol University turns down £24,000 donation to end forced swim animal research