A CAMPAIGN against a test that involved putting mice and rats into sealed containers and forcing them to swim has won a £50,000 prize from Dorset’s Lush.
The cosmetics company’s Lush Prize has seen £250,000 awarded this year to scientists, campaigners and educators working to end or replace animal testing in the industry.
Lush’s founders were campaigning against animal testing before the opening of their first shop at Poole High Street in 1995. The Lush Prize was launched in 2012 as a joint project between Lush and Ethical Consumer Research Association and has awarded £2.7million across 35 countries to 126 winners.
This year, 65 shortlisted organisations and individuals from 26 countries were considered by judges in six categories. Awards went to scientists in the US, undercover investigators in Spain and young researchers in the UK, Brazil and the Netherlands.
The £50,000 prize for the best global project was awarded to campaigners in New Zealand, who lobbied against the forced swim test – a procedure in which small animals such as rats and mice are forced to swim in an inescapable beaker of water until they “give up” and float.
The test was invented in 1970 and thousands of mice have been given anti-depressants or been genetically modified to induce depression. The theory was that a depressed rodent would give up more quickly than a happy one.
The campaign led to New Zealand’s economic development, science and innovation select committee to conclude the test was “largely useless”. New Zealand’s animal ethics committees have since begun declining applications to run the test.
Lush prize director Rob Harrison said: “The prize was set up 10 years ago to help bring about an end to all testing on animals, not least because they consistently give misleading results on solutions to human health problems.
“The work of the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society showed us that one way to get to this goal could be to persuade governments to reject one test at a time. They also did great work persuading students and others to sign petitions and draw public attention to the campaign.”
Two UK scientists, Dr Arthur de Carvalho e Silva, from the University of Birmingham and Dr Sudeep Joshi from the Francis Crick Institute and King’s College London, were also awarded a £10,000 Lush Prize each for their work in the Young Researcher Prize category. This category is open to scientists with a desire to fund the next stage of a career focused on an animal-test free future.
Dr Carvalho e Silva said: “Animal testing in chemical safety assessment has shown a level of reproducibility of around 80 per cent, and different lab animal species are concordant in only 60 per cent of the tests. Moreover, their relevance to human data has been challenged and studies have found that some animal assays are not concordant with the response in humans.
“Although current animal-free testing methods also have limitations, some promising developments have been achieved.”