Activists' secret film exposes the agony in US lab

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2007, 12:00am

Misuse, ill-treatment and humiliation of primates at a top US research laboratory has been caught on tape by animal-rights activists.

Covance, one of the world's largest drug-development service companies and the top primate importer, was infiltrated by the international animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which sent an undercover investigator to the firm's primate-testing lab in Vienna, Virginia.

Video footage taken at the lab between April 2004 and March 2005 shows disturbing scenes of animal mistreatment.

On several occasions, large tubes are inserted into primates' noses and down their throats, and experimental drugs are pumped into their stomachs resulting in choking, gagging and nose bleeds.

'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,' the investigator wrote.

'T told her, 'You're gonna kill him!', to which R responded, 'I'll ram it down his f****** throat'.'

The footage shows sick and dying monkeys suffering from bleeding gums, necrotic tails, infected abdomens and convulsions.

Many of the ailing primates were denied veterinary care because pharmaceutical companies did not allow treatment during tests so the effects of new drugs could be thoroughly evaluated, the Peta investigator said.

Lab-induced insanity with symptoms such as circling endlessly in a cage commonly occurred due to deprivation, loneliness, pain and misery, the activist said.

The Animal Welfare Act - introduced in the United States during the mid-1980s - requires research facilities to promote the psychological well-being of primates used for testing. But the animal rights group complains that the US government's response has been lame.

'Peta believes that if the [US Food and Drug Administration] uses our investigative information, it may well find violations of its [Good Laboratory Practices],' the group said in an announcement.

When no longer fit for experiments, the monkeys are terminated and thrown away.

'The worst thing about the euthanasia procedure was that it was done inside the animal room and all of the monkeys sat in their cages wide-eyed, watching their friends going limp on the table and being dumped in black plastic bags,' the Peta investigator said.