The Things the University of Bristol Does to Rats Are Absolutely Awful – Joanna Lumley Agrees

Posted by on August 23, 2021 | Permalink

The University of Bristol’s vice-chancellor and president, Hugh Brady, received a letter this week from acting icon Joanna Lumley, imploring him to end the university’s “ghastly” use of the forced swim test.

“As a long-time advocate for animals, I felt obliged to write to you about the near-drowning experiments conducted at the University of Bristol. As you must know, these experiments, also referred to as the ‘forced swim test’, involve trapping small animals in cylinders of water and forcing them to swim to keep from drowning.”

– Joanna Lumley

Joanna Lumley

What Are Experimenters in Bristol Doing to Rats?

In the forced swim test, experimenters often dose rats or other small animals with a test substance, put them in sheer-sided containers of water, and watch them paddle furiously in search of an exit, desperately trying to keep their heads above the surface.

Experimenters time how long it takes before the animal stops swimming, on the absurd assumption that this can tell us something about the psychological state of humans with clinical depression and other stress-related mental health conditions.

What’s the Point of the Experiment?

The widely criticised test is supposed to shed light on human conditions such as depression and stress. However, Lumley goes on to explain why the controversial experiments just don’t hold water when it comes to good science.

“And what do these tests do besides traumatising animals? Absolutely nothing, it seems,” she points out. “[T]hese experiments attempt to compare the animals’ ordeals with human conditions such as depression and stress, yet the test is neither required nor beneficial for producing new antidepressant treatments for humans. In fact, these tests may actually hinder the development of successful treatments for such conditions.”

The University of Bristol uses rats in the forced swim test. The following video shows experimenters at the University of Bath subjecting mice to the same test.


The lack of scientific unity  in nearly drowning rats and mice to identify antidepressant treatments has even been recognised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Urge the University of Bristol to Join Others That Have Banned the Test

Following discussions with PETA and our international affiliates, 15 companies and two universities, including King’s College London, have declared that they’ll no longer use the forced swim test.

We’re calling on the University of Bristol to follow suit. Join us by speaking out against this bad science.