NSW Becomes First Jurisdiction in the World to Ban Forced Swim Test and Forced Smoke Inhalation Procedure on Rodents

The Animal Research Amendment (Prohibition of Forced Swim Tests and Forced Smoke Inhalation Experiments) Bill 2023 was officially passed in the Legislative Assembly (NSW Lower House) yesterday, 14th March 2024. The historic win will see two inhumane testing methods used on rodents, the forced swim test and nasal smoke inhalation procedure, banned in NSW.

The Hon Emma Hurst MLC first tabled the bill in September 2023, after which it was introduced in the NSW Legislative Council on 7 February 2024 and passed with support from the Minns government.

The forced swim test is a widely criticised experimental procedure in which rodents, typically mice or rats, are placed in an inescapable container filled with water, forcing them to swim until they become exhausted or exhibit signs of helplessness and despair. This test is unreliably used to study depression and has faced criticism for its cruelty, as it subjects animals to severe fear and stress and can result in drowning.

The nasal smoke inhalation experiment involves restraining rodents to expose them to inhaled substances, such as smoke, by delivering it directly to their nose or head. This procedure is often used to create models to study respiratory conditions, however, has come under scrutiny due to the severe suffering and distress it inflicts.

RSPCA NSW has advocated for the cessation of these procedures and tests and believes that more humane alternatives for conducting scientific research should be adopted.

We would like to thank the state’s parliamentarians who recognised the suffering endured by rodents subjected to the forced swim test and nasal smoke inhalation procedure, as well as the Hon Emma Hurst MLC for her continued advocacy on this issue.

With two representatives on the Animal Research Review Panel (AARP), we look forward to continuing to advocate for reforms within the research sector and working with both the Animal Justice Party and state parliamentarians in achieving greater animal welfare outcomes.

For interview opportunities, please contact media@rspcansw.org.au.

Timeline and Background:  

  • March 2022 – RSPCA NSW made a submission to the Inquiry into the use of primates and other animals in medical research in NSW. The submission outlined the clear inherent and insurmountable animal welfare risks in these procedures. The full submission can be found here.
  • October 2022 – Portfolio Committee No. 2 (Health) published Report 59. Recommendation 1 stated, “That the NSW Government take steps to ensure the forced swim test and smoking tower test are rapidly phased out of use in medical research in New South Wales.” The full report can be found here.
  • November 2022 – RSPCA welcomed the committee’s findings and recommendations and called on legislative reform to implement a ban. See full statement here.
  • 20 September 2023 – The Hon Emma Hurst MLC tabled Animal Research Amendment (Prohibition of Forced Swim Tests and Forced Smoke Inhalation Experiments) Bill 2023. The Bill can be found here.
  • 7 February 2024 – Bill passed in NSW Legislative Council. RSPCA NSW’s statement regarding this announcement can be found here.