Sir Mark Rylance urges university to ban rat swim experiments

The actor has written a letter to University of Bristol vice-chancellor Hugh Brady.
The actor has written a letter to University of Bristol vice-chancellor Hugh Brady.

Sir Mark Rylance has written to the vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol calling for him to ban the “cruel and useless” forced swim experiments on rats.

The Oscar-winning actor, 62, said he is adding his name to the “tens of thousands” of people supporting a campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

In a letter to vice-chancellor Hugh Brady, Sir Mark said: “As you are no doubt aware, this test forces rats to experience the fear of drowning.

“Researchers put the small animals into inescapable beakers of water, in which they have no choice but to paddle frantically as they search for an escape.

“The scientists at Peta tell me that these experiments are used in attempts to study human conditions such as depression but that the test is not required or beneficial for producing new antidepressant treatments for humans.

“This leaves one question, why are these experiments continuing at the University of Bristol?

“I’m urging you to listen to the science and end these tests immediately.”

Sir Mark, who has just finished performing in Dr Semmelweis at the Bristol Old Vic, has joined more than than 33,000 people urging the university to follow in the footsteps of King’s College London.

The 88th Academy Awards – Press Room – Los Angeles
Mark Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2016 (Ian West/PA)

A statement from the University of Bristol said: “As a research university, we are committed to a culture of care where animals are treated with compassion and respect.

“We are in regular conversation with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) and the Home Office, as well scientific societies and academic colleagues, so we can keep up to date with the latest thinking on all aspects of research using animals.

“We have ethical review processes in place which look at each research project individually to provide constructive feedback and to ensure that the most refined and appropriate methods are being used.

“We acknowledge that some people have concerns about the use of animals in research, but we also recognise that research involving animals is vital for advances in medical, veterinary and scientific knowledge to improve our understanding of health and disease and the lives of both animals and humans.”