University unmoved on forced swim test

The presentation to Parliament of a petition to end the "forced swim test" has not changed the University of Otago's view the practice has value.

Animal rights groups Safe and the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society presented 25,000 signatures to Parliament on Friday.

The test involves making rats and mice swim in a beaker until they give up, in order to measure symptoms of depression.

"The test has been approved for use at Victoria University of Wellington and Otago University, despite calls from students and the public to end the use of the test," the university said,

Deputy vice-chancellor for research and enterprise Prof Richard Blaikie said the test was not performed frequently at Otago and was not being used at present, but the university's animal ethics committee would consider all applications for research or teaching involving animals.

He said there was an unmet need for new and better treatment options for depression and related conditions, and an ongoing need for basic research to understand biological and environmental factors that underpinned human and animal behaviours.

"Over many years, the rodent forced swim test... has proven to be an effective way of screening and identifying potential new treatments for their effectiveness at treating depression in humans."

Prof Blaikie said the test was almost always limited to five minutes and the rodents were removed, dried and returned to their colonies as soon as they stopped swimming.


Never underestimate humanity's ability to justify the inhumane.



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