Animals are being near-drowned in ‘forced swim tests’, and are suffocating to death while cigarette smoke is forced into their nostrils. The Animal Justice Party has obtained hidden government documents on these experiments which are still legal in Australia.
Forced Swim Tests - ‘Near drowning’ experiments
In forced swim tests animals are dropped into inescapable beakers filled with water. The distressed animal will paddle furiously, trying to find a way to escape and keep their head above water.
Forced swim tests are designed to mimic human depressive states. The animal is monitored and timed for how long they spend swimming and trying to escape. The theory is that a depressed animal will give up and stop attempts to escape more quickly than a non-depressed animal.
Also called the ‘behavioural despair test’, animals can be left in swimming for their lives for 6 minutes or longer. But the validity of these cruel experiments has come under intense academic scrutiny. Many in the research community do not believe the distress experienced by the animals in these experiments could ever replicate an accurate model of a complex condition like chronic human depression. They argue that animals who stop swimming and float on the water are more likely to have adapted behaviourally to a stressful situation and found a way to conserve energy.
Many have described near drowning experiments as cruel, inhumane, and irrelevant to human depression. In 2020 the University of Adelaide stopped experiments involving the near drowning of animals.
Despite new technologies being developed overseas that could eliminate the need to use animals in depression studies, ‘near drowning’ experiments are still legal in Australia.
Forced smoking experiments
In forced smoking experiments, animals are often forced into tiny plastic tubes where cigarette smoke is pumped directly into their nostrils. In experiments approved in NSW, mice have cigarette smoke pressure pushed into their faces. Many animals die of asphyxiation if they move their heads, or experience hypothermia. If they survive repeated smoke inhalation (typically they are exposed for over an hour twice daily up to 120 times in total), their bodies will often then be opened up to see the impact on their organs.
A letter written to the Animal Research Review Panel (a statutory body under the Department of Primary Industries) from someone who had witnessed the forced smoking procedure stated:
“I observed mice that had been removed from the smoking tower after a 1.5 hour procedure... I observed several mice staggering and shaking, they appeared disoriented, while some did not move at all.”
“I placed my face into several containers containing these tubes and the residual fumes were so strong that I had to step away. This was after they had been disconnected from the tower. My reasoned conclusion was that I would be distressed and in pain if I were connected to a tower that delivered smoke under pressure directly into the nostrils for the period of time it takes to burn 12 cigarettes.”
Another one of the documents uncovered by the AJP found a review submitted to the oversight body stating:
The procedure can be expected to impose acute pain, nicotine withdrawal and stress effects in addition to the chronic debilitating effects of the disease it is designed to model. These acute effects are likely to be substantial in terms of animal welfare and would trigger physiological responses and artefacts that would not occur in humans when smoking.
In fact, for decades, research has highlighted the failure of these experiments to accurately model the impacts of smoke on human lungs, yet here in Australia forced smoking experiments still continue.
Secret government documents obtained by the AJP show thousands of animals are forced to inhale toxic smoke each year, and at least one experiment started without approval.
These experiments are cruel, unnecessary and unscientific. They must be banned immediately.