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Victoria Students Demand an End to the Forced Swim Test

Hundreds of students at Victoria University of Wellington are demanding an end to the cruel Forced Swim Test.

Students from over a dozen clubs, including the Psychology Club, have signed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor and members of the University’s Animal Ethics committee urging the institute to end the Forced Swim Test. The test is used as an attempt to mimic depression or hopelessness in humans, which the students say should be ended on ethical, scientific and financial grounds. The test involves placing a small animal such as a rat or mouse into an inescapable beaker of water, where they are forced to swim until they ‘give up’ and float.

New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) Executive Director Tara Jackson says shock and disappointment have been felt by many students.

"There is deep concern among the student body that such an outdated and irrelevant test is being used at their institute," says Miss Jackson.

"Not only is this test cruel but it does not model human depression. This test is less predictive than chance at determining if a compound would have efficacy in humans. Victoria University is wasting valuable resources, including time and money, each time they approve this test."

The Victoria University Animal Ethics Committee has so far refused to commit to no longer using the Forced Swim Test.

"We must continue encouraging Victoria University to make this commitment and join the global shift away from this cruel and irrelevant test. Hopefully committee members listen to these many concerned students and reconsider their decision," added Jackson.

The Psychology Club of Victoria University recognises that it’s time to get rid of such an outdated test. Hayley is currently a student of psychology at Victoria University, and she was shocked to learn about the use of the Forced Swim Test.

"I am appalled that this test has passed through the ethics committee and been permitted to go ahead at our institution," says Hayley.

The letter sent to Victoria University affiliates today, reflects the views of over 1500 students at the University, all supporting an end to the use of this test.

SAFE Head of Campaigns Marianne Macdonald says she is not surprised to see this reaction from students.

"No-one wants to see animals suffer. These students want to see their institute take a progressive approach and show the rest of Aotearoa and the world that they are capable of evaluating and updating test methods to improve the way they do research," says Ms Macdonald.

"I applaud these students taking action and demanding change at their University. Pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson and Johnson have already committed to no longer using the Forced Swim Test. It’s time that Victoria University did the same."

NZAVS and SAFE are encouraging people to send a message to members of the Victoria University Animal Ethics Committee, urging them to reconsider their decision and commit to ending the use of the Forced Swim Test.


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