information warfare 1
Saturday, March 25, 2006

Primate Abuse at Covance

Retrieved from:

Inside Covance U.S.


PETA's investigator was hired by Covance as a technician and worked inside the company's primate testing lab in Vienna, Virginia, from April 26, 2004, to March 11, 2005. The investigator's video documentation inside the lab started on July 30, 2004, and what she documented-the terror, sadness, sickness, injuries, suffering, and deaths of monkeys from the wild and Covance's own breeding facilities—will leave even the staunchest supporter of animal testing ashamed and all good people clamoring for justice. It will also make it perfectly clear that government oversight of labs such as Covance is a farce.

At Covance, animal technicians called the head veterinarian "Mr. Let's Wait and See." The primate staff—even those who were, themselves, often cruel to the monkeys—complained repeatedly about a young monkey with a broken arm being left untreated in his cage for four days. Apparently, "Mr. Let's Wait and See," the head vet at Covance, didn't know what to do about the bone break, and so he waited for a junior veterinarian to return from her time off. The junior vet immediately ordered the animal euthanized as the break was too severe to repair. She discovered and disclosed that the head veterinarian had given the baby monkey a drug that had little more effect than that of an aspirin for his unimaginable pain.

Other Documented Horrors for Animals at Covance

Training Terrorists

On her first day at the laboratory where she would work for the next 11 months, PETA’s investigator watched workers practicing gavaging monkeys—a procedure that can cause throat lacerations, gagging, and vomiting. She wrote: “All of the monkeys resisted and tried to hold onto their cages while screaming. ‘A’ took the plastic tubing and fed it down the monkey’s nose as she squirmed and squealed. Her eyes shifted from ‘A’ to the tubing being shoved up her nose. One monkey was so terrified that he vomited while ‘A’ was putting the tube in his nose. ‘R’ told ‘A’ to ‘keep going’ and ‘A’ continued to shove the tube up the monkey’s nose and down his throat while vomit was dripping off his face. Once the monkeys had seen the procedure done, they all became fearful. Several spun in their cages, one did continuous somersaults, and some hid in the back of their cages. One of the last monkeys squirmed while ‘A’ put the tube in his nose. Again, ‘R’ told ‘A’ to ‘keep going,’ so ‘A’ pushed the tubing further until there was blood dripping out of the monkey’s nose. ‘A’ had hit the monkey’s sinus cavity.” The last stop that day was the "post life" lab where the new employees were shown the "cups" room. "I was told that cups labeled with yellow tags were animals who were killed, while the numerous cups labeled with red tags were 'unexpected deaths.' We observed a technician take an animal's spinal cord and remove pieces to be analyzed under a microscope. He simply discarded the unneeded body parts into a plastic bag."

Within days of being hired, PETA's investigator and other trainees were shown a recent TV exposé of the company's German facility. An undercover investigator there had caught Covance workers screaming obscenities at terrified monkeys, roughly throwing them back into cages after conducting stress-filled and painful procedures, mocking them, and forcing them to dance to loud music. The trainees were told that Covance was trying to bring legal charges against those who took the video, and the trainer assured the new staff that what appeared on the tape might look cruel to a "regular person" but that the scenes were "typical" and only shocking to people who don't work with monkeys. The PETA investigator wrote in her log notes: "[Two] current employees said that you have to be dominant when trying to catch the monkeys because they do not want to be caught. [And the trainer] said that everyone probably dances to the music with the monkeys while holding them and that the monkeys enjoy it."

Instead of telling the new hires that they must never treat monkeys in that way, Covance excused the behavior. As our investigator would learn, neither supervisors nor those above them ever stopped the cruel treatment of the monkeys now caught on tape in its Northern Virginia facility by PETA.

Transported to Purgatory and Back Again to Hell

On October 8, 2004, PETA's investigator climbed into a van with other Covance employees and headed toward the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) with 20 monkeys in small cages. Covance staff had been "acclimating" these monkeys to restraint boxes for the past several weeks for this very day.

From the investigator's July 22, 2004, log notes:

"[J] and several other technicians were doing 'box acclimation' with the rhesus macaques tonight. The boxes will be used in the study that will irradiate the monkeys for [drug company name]. It is hard to explain the sight of these magnificent monkeys being restrained in these boxes. The monkeys wear collars that slip into a notch at the top of the box (the box is made of clear Plexiglas). Knobs are then used to tighten the collar in place and the monkey is forced back into the box. The monkeys' arms and legs are then tied and bound to the sides of the box and a Plexiglas plate is tightened around their torsos. It looks like a medieval torture device. Some of the monkeys thrashed and screamed-trying to free themselves from the box, while others went limp and their eyes seemed to glaze over as they stared into space in an attempt to block out the terrifying reality of what they were experiencing."

The day for irradiation arrives. The drug company is testing an anti-radiation drug, hoping to cash in on fears of nuclear terrorism just as many other companies are cashing in by conducting experiments, funded by the government, into bioterrorism and its possible treatments.

From the investigator's October 8, 2004, log notes:

"Today was the day that we took the [drug company name] rhesus monkeys to AFRRI to be radiated. In the morning, several of us came in and got the monkeys 'prepared.' I shaved the back of their legs ? as well as their femoral area. Some of the monkeys looked so horrified as I shaved all of their gorgeous hair off-not knowing what was going on or what was coming next. Each monkey was then weighed and put in their crate. The crates were extremely small—approximately 3 feet wide, 2 feet tall, and 2 feet deep, and this area was split in two so that two monkeys were actually transported in each box. The inside of the boxes was very dark with only a small metal area with holes poked in it on each side of the crate.

"After all the monkeys were loaded into their crates, they were taken downstairs and loaded onto a truck. The noise was deafening, and I'm sure the monkeys were scared to death. The monkeys were transported in the truck while we followed behind in a van.

"When we arrived at AFRRI, we all went through security clearance and they even checked our truck. The truck with the monkeys in it was pulled up to a loading dock. We took two monkeys at a time out of their crates and put them inside of the restraint boxes. They were then put on a dolly and carted around some hallways until we got to a room with large steel doors on one side. As I looked through the doors, there was an enormous open space which dropped approximately four stories below. At the bottom was a small, skinny rectangular-type pool with one small table across the middle. Two men came and took the monkeys from me and carted them to a small open elevator that was lowered down into the abyss. The men took the monkeys and placed them on the table above the pool, facing away from each other in their restraint boxes so that they had nothing to look at but this enormous deep hole.

"The men came back up into the office and shut the steel doors. There was a man sitting at a desk with a computer and several monitors. He showed me that you could see the monkeys down in the pit. Depending on the weight and body mass of the monkeys, they were radiated for different amounts of time, and a large rod rose out of the water and there was a loud machine sound. Each group of two was left alone for approximately five minutes inside this room, restrained, unable even to see their friend, with piercing noises and the large rod rising out of the water. From the fuzzy camera picture, I could see the looks of fear on the monkeys' faces and will never forget how scared and helpless they looked.

"The rhesus were brought back up and carted back to the truck and put in their boxes. At different intervals, they were pulled out of the boxes for either dosing or blood collection. When we were finally finished and made it back home, the monkeys had to have even more blood collected until they were finally left alone.

"I will never forget the experience of going to AFRRI and seeing these poor animals be irradiated. The fear on their faces through each of the phases of the day will never leave my mind—especially watching their little fearful faces on the TV screen as they were irradiated against their will, unable to do anything—not even move."

Cruel Tests for Profit

The "Grease Pit"

For one year, 32 monkeys were gavaged orally at Covance. The study was conducted for a major pharmaceutical company and was nicknamed "grease pit" by the staff because the test substance was thick and greasy. Every day for 365 days, the monkeys in the grease pit test had thick tubes shoved down their throats so the tarry substance could be delivered into their stomachs. Naturally the poor animals had to be torn out of their cages for this daily abuse and many tried as best they could to keep their mouths shut tight. But there was always the "bite bar" ...
From the investigator's log:

"I dosed grease pit today while J and T caught and R did the bite bar. A girl from the rodent department came in to watch some of the dosing. When one of the male monkeys, Ninja, would not open his mouth for dosing, R hit him in the face with the bite bar several times so hard it was audible, and she also used the bite bar to try and pry his mouth open. T told her, 'You're gonna kill him!' to which R responded, 'I'll ram it down his fucking throat.' As T caught the monkeys, he yelled at them, saying things like 'Dumb fuck,' 'Hold your fucking head up, dick,' and 'You little asshole.'"
On October 26, 2004, PETA's investigator was told by her coworker that over the weekend, J had aspirated a "grease-pit monkey" (put the dosing tube into the monkey's lung instead of his stomach) and that the technicians "held him upside-down and shook him" to see if they could get any of the slimy substance out of his lungs but "only bloody froth came out." It took the animal at least 45 minutes to die.
By January 20, 2005, the end of what was surely a long year of suffering for these poor animals was at hand. All of the grease pit monkeys were sedated and driven to another building in an unheated golf cart in freezing temperatures where they were bled to death in stainless steel sinks, their thighs cut open by the necropsy technicians and their body parts sorted.

Death or Nothing

On December 13, 2004, 10 cynomolgus monkeys were given the first dose of an unknown substance. The Covance technicians were told by the study director that the client expected deaths but our investigator was in disbelief over what happened during the following two hellish weeks. The monkeys were stuck inside large plastic restraint tubes and were dosed every day for 14 days by a 10-minute infusion into a leg vein. After having been infused with the substance, the monkeys were bled at five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and one, two, four, six, eight, and 12 hours post-dose. Each time they were bled, the frightened and desperately sick animals were yanked from the cages and stuffed into the clear plastic body tubes. Within several hours of the first dose, monkey #23, in the high dose group, was ataxic—laboratory jargon for no motor coordination. The following day, both of the mid- and high-dose groups were ataxic, with monkey #22 hunched and inactive. By day 3, the technicians handling the dosing were told that the client does not want any veterinary requests entered. The technicians were allowed to enter the animals' suffering as "observations" into the computer system but they were not allowed to ask for veterinary care. Monkey #23 stopped using the leg into which the substance was infused and soon necrotic (dead) tissue surrounded the injection site. His leg was swollen all the way down to his foot. So they dosed him in his other leg which led to the same hideous suffering. The technicians were ordered to dose #23 and any other monkey whose legs became unusable, in his tail. This poor monkey's tail became necrotic. On December 17, monkey #22 went into convulsions while he was being dosed, and our investigator, against orders, informed the veterinarian—to no avail. They had to enter the convulsions into the computer system as an "observation." On December 21, 2004, according to our investigator's log notes, one of the female monkeys went into convulsions inside her restraint tube and another female began vomiting inside the tube where she was left for the entire 10-minute dosing and the five-minute blood draw. She was returned to her cage covered in vomit. Our investigator's coworker told her that K, the study director, did not come in at all over the weekend as he had promised to do, so our investigator went to speak with J, the toxicologist, to tell her the horrible condition of the monkeys. Nothing was done. The monkeys were killed two days after Christmas, except for #23, who was killed slightly earlier than the others because his legs were so necrotic.

In a conversation on January 3, 2005, the junior veterinarian at Covance told our investigator that the study director had asked her to look at the animals right before they were killed so that there would be a record of their having been looked at by a vet, but as for allowing technicians or veterinarians to ask for treatment during the 14 days, she said, "We weren't allowed to! All of those sheets that J [the toxicologist] sent—I was not allowed to look at those animals. It was either death or nothing."

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