Richard E Grant Urges University of Bristol to End ‘Horrific’ Near-Drowning Tests on Animals

Richard E Grant Urges University of Bristol to End ‘Horrific’ Near-Drowning Tests on Animals

Bristol – BAFTA-winning actor Richard E Grant – who just kicked off his A Pocketful of Happiness book tour at the Bristol Hippodrome theatre – sent a letter to University of Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Evelyn Welch, appealing to her to end the university’s “horrific” forced swim experiments on terrified rats.

“My career has taken me everywhere from Penrith to a galaxy far, far away. And while I’ve experienced some absurd things on my travels, even I couldn’t believe it when I heard that the forced swim test is still used at your university,” writes Grant. “I can only imagine how terrified rats must feel as experimenters put them into inescapable beakers of water, in which they paddle frantically in search of an escape – pawing at the sides of the beaker and diving to the bottom – but to no avail. Once experimenters have finished subjecting the animals to this cruelty, they kill them.”

The forced swim test has recently been discredited for its use in depression research in a scientific paper initiated by the Home Office, which concluded that the test cannot predict the efficacy of potential new antidepressant drugs, is a poor model of depression, and could even rule out effective new drugs for humans.

The test has also been criticised on welfare grounds and because of its irrelevance to humans. Trying to understand the fundamental human biology underlying stress and anxiety by forcing rats to swim in a beaker of water is doing a disservice to those suffering with mental health disorders. Imagine what an exhausting and distressing experience this must be for the animal: spending your life trapped in a cage, then being forced to take part in an experiment that intentionally causes you stress, only to be killed at the end of it.

“The science doesn’t add up,” continues Grant. “It makes no sense for the university to continue to use an experiment that is both distressing for animals and irrelevant to humans.”

Following discussions with PETA entities around the world, 15 companies and over a dozen universities, including King’s College London, have declared that they don’t intend to use the forced swim test in the future. PETA is calling on the University of Bristol to follow suit. Already, more than 50,000 people – including actors Sir Mark Rylance and Joanna Lumley and Mayor of West England Dan Norris – have urged the university to take action.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The letter is available here. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


Jennifer White +44 (0) 20 7837 6327; [email protected]