Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has ended the cruel practice of water tank testing with mice.
Johnson & Johnson has reportedly committed to “not conducting or funding” the test, according to animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Johnson & Johnson is the second major pharmaceutical company to ban the test.
Research company AbbVie made the same move last December, according to PETA. The company pledged to not “conduct or fund the forced swim test,” a promise which is now included on its official policy.
It clearly states, “AbbVie does not currently use or intend to use or fund animal forced swim tests.”
What Is the Water Tank Test?
The test, otherwise known as the Despair Test or Forced Swim Test, grew in popularity in the 1970s; it is just one controversial method used by pharmaceutical companies to measure the effectiveness of antidepressants. It has long been the focus of charities working on eliminating animal cruelty.
The test supposedly evaluates drug effectiveness by measuring the length that small rodents — such as mice, rats, and other small animals — will struggle to escape before simply trying to float to keep their heads above water.
The lack of struggle has been interpreted by some scientists as a sign of depression and giving up, whereas others have said it shows positive learning and “adapting to a new environment.”
Questions surrounding the effectiveness of the test stretch back decades and there are multiple scientific papers investigating whether it is a suitable method for obtaining results.
One published in 1988 is titled “Is the forced swimming test a suitable model for revealing antidepressant activity?” The paper draws on other research which shows “there is no relationship between inescapability and immobility.”
The vegan organization is now calling for the other major pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer to stop using the cruel practice.