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Leading crown research institute prohibits the use of a cruel animal test – NZAVS

In a groundbreaking move for ethical research, a prominent crown research institute in Aotearoa, AgResearch has become the first institution in the country to prohibit the use of the Forced Swim Test.

This momentous decision marks a significant step forward in pursuing ethical scientific practices and effectively rules out the practice by the many organisations that require research approvals from AgResearch’s Animal Ethics Committee.

The Forced Swim Test is an animal test that involves small animals, such as rats or mice, being made to swim in an inescapable beaker of water to measure their response to the threat of drowning. Some researchers use the test to try and mimic depression or hopelessness in humans. The Forced Swim Test has been heavily scrutinised internationally for its lack of validity.

AgResearch has just updated its Code of Ethical Conduct, a legally binding document that sets out how its Animal Ethics Committee can approve the use of animals for research, testing and teaching purposes. This now states that the AgResearch Animal Ethics Committee will “not consider an application that includes the Porsolt Swim Test.”

NZAVS, a charity that works to end animal experimentation in Aotearoa, has been campaigning against the use of the Forced Swim Test in NZ for several years now. They are calling this announcement a result of good leadership.

“We know that members of the animal science and research community in NZ are aware of the ethical and scientific issues with the Forced Swim Test, but it’s rare to see a public commitment like this. We applaud AgResearch for showing such progressive leadership in the research sector,” says Tara Jackson, NZAVS Executive Director.

“This step forward by AgResearch is huge and far-reaching as their animal ethics committee parents over 30% of all institutes using animals for research, testing and teaching in NZ. This means that it is now impossible for around a third of all institutes in Aotearoa to use the Forced Swim Test,” added Miss Jackson.

The Forced Swim Test has long been a subject of ethical concern and scrutiny. AgResearch recognises the importance of advancing scientific knowledge while upholding the principles of compassion and ethical treatment of animals. This decision reflects the institute’s commitment to fostering a research environment that prioritises scientific progress and ethical responsibility.

Jim Webster, AgResearch Animal Ethics Office Leader, expressed enthusiasm for the institute’s pioneering stance, stating, “Today, AgResearch and its Animal Ethics Committee has taken a significant step towards aligning research practices with our collective commitment to ethical treatment of animals. Prohibiting the use of the Forced Swim Test not only underscores our dedication to high scientific standards but also showcases our responsibility to the well-being of all living beings involved in our research endeavours.”

 

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