the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society
What does putting a mouse into a jar of water tell us about human mental health?
Campaigners in New Zealand who asked this question were today awarded a £50,000 prize for best global project to persuade a regulator to prevent animal testing.
The Forced Swim Test is a ‘scientific procedure’ that involves forcing small animals such as rats or mice to swim in an inescapable beaker of water until they ‘give up’ and float. The theory was that a depressed rodent would give up more quickly than a happy one. Since the procedure was invented in 1970, mice in their thousands have been given anti-depressants and even genetically modified to induce depression, before being dunked.
Researchers, perhaps unsurprisingly, are becoming increasingly sceptical about whether this ‘test’ has any value at all. An analysis conducted with data from four major pharmaceutical companies found that the Forced Swim Test was less predictive than chance at determining if a compound would be an effective antidepressant for humans.
Judges at the Lush Prize were impressed by the way the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society had focussed in on one quite obviously questionable test to tell a more general story about the wider issues of trying to use different species to tell us about how chemicals affect humans.
The Society’s work led New Zealand’s Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee (20th February 2020) to conclude that the test was ‘largely useless’. Subsequently the ‘animal ethics committees’ there have begun declining applications to run the test.
Rob Harrison, Lush Prize Director explained:
“The Prize was set up ten years ago to help bring about an end to all testing on animals, not least because they consistently give misleading results on solutions to human health problems. The work of the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society showed us that one way to get to this goal could be to persuade governments to reject one test at a time. They also did great work persuading students and others to sign petitions and draw public attention to the campaign.”
Spain and young researchers in Brazil, the Netherlands and the UK.
For more information about this year’s winners and the prize in general see www.lushprize.org
Notes to Editors
1. More information about theNew Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society’s campaign (NZAVS) appears at https://www.nzavs.org.nz/forced-swim-test.
Lush Prize was founded in 2012 in the UK with a goal of helping to bring forward the date when no further product safety testing on animals was required. It is a collaboration between the campaigning cosmetics company Lush and the campaigning research group Ethical Consumer.
The £250,000 prize fund is the biggest prize in the non-animal testing sector, and is the only award to focus solely on the complete replacement of animal tests.
The Prize categories: http://www.lushprize.org/awards/ –
- Public Awareness: public awareness-raising of on going testing
- Science: for the development of replacement non-animal tests
- Training: training researchers in non-animal tests
- Lobbying: policy interventions to promote the use of replacements
- Young Researcher: to researchers under 35 years old specialising in animal replacement research
Lush is a campaigning manufacturer and retailer of fresh handmade cosmetics with shops in 49 countries. The Lush Prize is one element in a broader campaign called ‘Fighting Animal Testing’. www.lush.co.uk
About Ethical Consumer:
Ethical Consumer Research Association is a not-for-profit research co-operative specialising in independent research into social, animal welfare and environmental issues. www.ethicalconsumer.org
Every year, it is estimated that more than around 200 million animals are used in testing laboratories around the world.
Photo from NZAVS