King’s becomes the first uni in the world to formally end testing on mice

It follows campaigns by animal rights charities

Scientists at King's College London have formally ended 'cruel' mouse swimming tests, making them the first university in the world to do this.

In widely discredited tests, small animals are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim to keep from drowning, in experiments designed to evaluate antidepressants.

Experimenters time how long it takes for the animals to stop struggling and begin to float. Those which don't swim as long are said to be in a state of "despair".

The tests have been criticised by academics who argue floating is not a sign of depression, but instead a positive indicator of learning as the mouse is seen saving energy and adapting to a new environment.

They've also proven to be a poor predictor of whether a drug will work to treat depression in humans.

Following discussion with the animal charity PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) King's said it will no longer conduct these tests.

Peta Science Policy Adviser Dr Julia Baines said: "Peta is delighted that King's College London has chosen to do the right thing by committing to ending its use of this cruel test.

"We encourage the university to carry forward this momentum into other animal experimentation, and we urge other universities to follow its lead by banning the test."

King's has now joined pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, AbbVie, Roche, and AstraZeneca, who have all banned the forced swim tests on mice and other small animals.

A spokesperson for King's said: "We have not performed the forced swim test on mice since 2015 or have any intention to do so in the future as we believe there are better behavioural tests available, which are less stressful for the mice.

"Animal research at King's is ethically reviewed and we only use animals where there is no alternative."

Following its success, PETA are continuing to urge other universities and pharmaceutical companies to follow in King's steps.