Stop torturing animals with forced-swim tests

Many people express confidence in animal tests to advance human medicine, but if they knew the reality behind these experiments, that confidence would be shattered.

For example: studying depression. One standard method that scientists have devised is the Forced-Swim Test. In this misguided attempt, researchers drop rats and mice into inescapable tanks of water and watch as the terrified animals struggle to stay afloat for periods of time. Animals that stop swimming the soonest are considered depressed because they “gave up.”

forced swim

Please send your polite letter to the director of the National Institute of Mental Health and other proponents of the test to request that they stop approving projects that use the forced swim test.

Forced swim tests are no more than simulated drownings. The terrified animals don’t know that the test will end before they drown. They absolutely experience intense fear and panic as they struggle for their lives.

forced swim peta

The forced-swim test is frequently used in mental health research. But recent opposition from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the New Zealand Anti-vivisection Society (NZAVS) has highlighted its extreme cruelty and gross inapplicability to humans.

In fact, the forced-swim test has received significant criticism from scientists themselves for lacking merit.  Neuroendocrinologist Ron de Kloet says that many researchers are under pressure to use the tests.

“People get their grants based on this test, they write papers based on the test, they make careers. It’s a culture which keeps itself alive, even though most of them will admit that the tests are not showing what they are supposed to do,” he says.

Dr. Alan Schatzberg, who oversees the department of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, affirms that we can’t use animals to study human depression. He and others point out that antidepressants were discovered by accident and not through animal tests.

Not only are animal experiments of depression crude and cruel, but there are many effective ways to study the true human physiology behind depression.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to predict which patients will respond best to antidepressant treatment.  Using high precision MRI, scientists identified the lateral orbitofrontal cortex as the area of the brain affected by depression. 

Another brain-imaging technique, diffusion tensor imaging demonstrated that the quality of the white matter in the brain was reduced in people who experienced depression.

Examining brain tissue from deceased donors, scientist can identify genes involved in depression and other psychiatric illnesses. Newer technologies like organoids (mini-brains) will add to these existing studies.

It’s time to end funding and support for this cruel method. Send your polite letter to NIMH today to end these horrific tests once and for all!

Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research (CAARE), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, established to highlight and promote research without animals.


Please donate to support CAARE’s mission to end animal suffering by disseminating information about the power and progress of research without animals.