A row of people stand on a lawn holding a banner that reads "No Forced Swim Tests" and placards for animal rights.

Animal rights activists protest University’s “cruel” testing practices

A University of Bristol open day attended by an estimate 40,000 prospective students was disrupted this morning when activists from Animal Rising and PETA demonstrated outside Senate House, the university’s administrative building, in protest against university animal testing policies. 

The demonstration came as part of an ongoing campaign to pressure the University of Bristol to stop the Forced Swim Test, also known as the Porsolt Test, in which rats are dropped into a container of water whilst under the influence of antidepressants to measure their reaction time when threatened with drowning. 

There is debate amongst scientists as to the effectiveness of the test, which is interpreted to demonstrate the effectiveness of antidepressants. 

Read more: An insider reflects on the highs and lows of animal activism

PETA senior campaigns manager Kate Werner said: ‘The public deserves to know that the university defends a scientifically debunked experiment that torments small animals. PETA is calling on the University of Bristol to admit that watching panicked animals struggle to stay above water doesn’t help us treat human depression and drop the test now.’

As reported by Epigram, in November 2021, Bristol Students Union passed a motion to publicly object to the University’s continued use of the test, and to pressure the University not to renew its licence to use the test once it expires in August 2022.

The campaign has drawn the support of West of England metro mayor Dan Norris, who said in 2022: ‘Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is cruel, and studies show it is irrelevant to depression in humans. I join PETA in urging the University of Bristol to reconsider the forced swim test and stop tormenting gentle animals in this outdated experiment.’

The University has this year been granted a further licence to conduct Forced Swim Tests on 4,000 rodents over the coming 5 years.

‘This highlights our broken relationship with animals,’ said Daniel Juniper, an Animal Rising activist. He continued: ‘We wrongly see ourselves as superior to the other animals we share this planet with. We see them as expendable and inconsequential, when they too are someone who has an impact on those they share their lives with. 

‘They too have hopes and memories, they too feel fear and panic when subjected to tests and unfair living conditions. Just like humans do.’

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