Ending the Forced Swim Test

WIN: The Forced Swim Test isn’t conducted at NZ Universities. A ‘Thank You’ card, signed by thousands of our supporters, was sent to all eight NZ universities commending them on exercising their power not to use the Forced Swim Test.

WIN: Winning ‘The Lush Prize’ worth £50,000 (around $90,000NZD) for our Forced Swim Test campaign work. This is part of a global prize fund to support initiatives to end or replace animal testing and is the largest prize fund in the non-animal testing sector, worth a total of £250,000.

Watch the short video about this award, made by LUSH, below:

WIN: AgResearch, one of seven Crown Research Institutes in Aotearoa New Zealand, commits to prohibiting the use of the Forced Swim Test!

This means that the AgResearch Animal Ethics Committee will not approve the use of the Forced Swim Test. The Forced Swim Test will, therefore, not be approved for any study put forward by any 1 of the 40 institutes that their animal ethics committee parents over.


There are no wins without the work. This work took several years, but together, we did it!

The issue: 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 as a misguided attempt to mimic depression or hopelessness in humans. The Forced Swim Test has been scrutinised here and internationally for its lack of validity.

The solution: Together with you, NZAVS focused on educating the public and lobbying institutes using animals for science in NZ to stop using this cruel test in their research. We also called on the NZ Government to exercise its power as a major funder of research in NZ.

Tactics included:

  • Public actions such as protests and stunts to help build support and submit a 20K signature-strong Petition to the NZ Government asking for a ban on the use of the Forced Swim Test.
  • We collaborated with animal advocacy group SAFE to build even greater support for our petition.
  • At this point, the hard mahi did not result in the government agreeing to ban this test outright, and so a shift change in the campaign was needed.

A shift-change:

We quickly changed tact and embraced a collaborative approach to the campaign. We started to focus on educating and working with the research community and the various animal ethics committees, allowing this test to occur. We looked at the source of the ‘problem’ and turned it into the ‘solution’.

Tactics included:

Our Executive Director spoke at the 2021 Australian & New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) conference.

This was a profound first for NZAVS. In the past we had protested these conferences, and so going inside to attend and present was a new and exciting opportunity. But above all, it was also a powerful one.

Our Executive Director spoke about the invalidity of the Forced Swim Test and why the animal science and research industry needed to resign this test to the history books and instead deliver better results, using animal-free technologies that would assist humans better and leave animals out of it.

Following this conference, NZAVS continued this collaborative approach working behind the scenes and building trust with industry members to make this change from within their organisations.

As part of this mahi, NZAVS directly engaged with all NZ Universities and other research institutes on the invalidity of the test and the need for better methods that do not use animals.

We also gained the support of NAEAC (the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee), who then published their role-modeling stance on the Forced Swim Test as not being a ‘valid model for human depression’. 

This also went a long way to help influence these animal ethics committees and added even more power to our direct engagement with each university and crown research institute.

The measure of our success:

At the start of the next teaching year, we asked all NZ universities if they had recently approved the use of the Forced Swim Test.

Here, we discovered that:

  • The two universities who had used it in the past hadn’t recently, and
  • One university had received a request (an animal ethics application) that included the use of the Forced Swim Test, but they declined it, meaning the Forced Swim Test was not conducted.

At the end of 2023:

AgResearch, one of NZ’s key Crown Research Institutes updated their public Code of Ethical Conduct (a legally binding document) which states that their Animal Ethics Committee will “not consider an application that includes the Porsolt Swim Test”, 40 institutes across Aotearoa New Zealand will not be able to use this cruel test.

Thanks to AgResearch it is now impossible for more than a third of all institutes in Aotearoa to use the Forced Swim Test!


Together with you, we’ll continue regularly monitoring if the Forced Swim Test is being used and/or approved in NZ, either in Universities or Crown Research Institutes.

Due to our supporters and this work together – we are rapidly eroding the social license of this invalid, cruel test without a legislative ban in place by the NZ Government prohibiting its use. That’s amazing people power in action for animals in Aotearoa. Thank you!


We want to thank LUSH for the incredible global award; SAFE for supporting our campaign, and Dr Emily Trunnell from PETA for her significant contribution to our campaign against the use of the Forced Swim Test. 

We are deeply appreciative of the team at AgResearch, who has championed this NZ watershed moment for animals used in science with the institute.

Without trust and respect for each other, we would not be able to make these breakthroughs for animals, and so this mahi we do together, even though it may take time (and for very legitimate reasons), the impact on animals is huge, and it is long-lasting.

We thank our supporters for believing in this direct engagement work and understanding its power to change the lives of animals for good.

With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.