West of England Metro Mayor and longstanding campaigner against animal cruelty, Dan Norris, has once again joined calls for the University of Bristol to drop its use of experiments that see rats and mice dropped into water and made to continually swim to stop themselves from drowning.

It comes after freedom of information data showed at least two leading universities – including Bristol University – used mice and rats to undertake the “forced swim test” last year.

University College London ran the experiment 31 times last year, a figure dwarfed by the 189 tests conducted by Bristol University in 2022.

The forced swim test measures how long it takes for the animals to stop swimming in a beaker of water to see how effective antidepressants are. All animals are killed within a week of the test.

But the experiment has been heavily criticised by many experts who claim the science of the process is flawed and that it does not yield accurate data. Several top universities have turned away from the test including Newcastle University and King’s College, London, as well as many major pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Bath University, meanwhile, also has a licence to run the experiment but they did not do so last year.

The Home Office, which is responsible for animal testing and giving out licences to organisations seeking to run specific tests, has commissioned the Animals in Science Committee to advise it whether the forced swim test should still be permitted. Mr Norris has called this review a “golden opportunity” to drop this “archaic and cruel” test for good.

He said “Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is horrifically cruel. Regrettably, Bristol University are simply out of step with the public on this. It is very disappointing that they have still not listened to the calls to end this barbaric practice for good. World class institutions like Bristol should be leading the way both scientifically and ethically. I welcome the Home Office review of the forced swim test but rather than being shamed into doing what is right, I urge the University of Bristol to act sooner and drop the forced swim test today.”

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