Press Releases

Inside Covance: BUAV/ECEAE launches first ever undercover investigation in an animal testing laboratory in Germany

9 December 2003

The world's leading anti-vivisection campaigning organisation, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), has conducted the first ever undercover investigation in a German animal laboratory, revealing the horrifying truth behind the closed doors of Covance, one of the world's largest contract testing companies. Our groundbreaking investigation exposes the horrific suffering of thousands of monkeys subjected to a life of deprivation, fear, torment and toxic poisoning.

For five months, a BUAV operative called 'Marcus' worked undercover as an animal technician at Covance, Münster, in Germany. This laboratory tests almost exclusively on non-human primates; it houses up to 2,000 rhesus macaques, cynomolgus macaques and common marmosets for toxicity testing. This Covance facility is likely to be one of the largest users of non-human primates for vivisection in the whole of Europe.

Working mainly with the cynomolgus macaques, Marcus witnessed the daily suffering of monkeys (including heavily pregnant females) subjected to the abhorrent routine of pharmaceutical toxicity testing. It was a gruelling challenge, submerged in a world where the animals were treated with callous indifference, tormented by the staff, separated from each other, isolated in barren cages, regularly and forcibly pumped full of drugs and eventually killed.

Most of the macaques were confined in small, metal, single-isolation cages for anything from a few months up to three years. As well as being totally isolated from each other in small spaces, most of the cages were completely barren. The only attempt at 'environmental enrichment' for some of these highly intelligent, complex animals was a tiny block of wood and the occasional plastic bone. Even pregnant females were kept in these appalling conditions, forced to give birth on the cold metal bars of the cage floor.

Unsurprisingly, these barren, unstimulating conditions led to serious stereotypical behaviour in some monkeys, including repetitive rocking, circling and back flipping, classic symptoms of mental disturbance. They were literally driven mad with boredom and deprivation.

As well as enduring appalling conditions, the monkeys at Covance were also subjected to a daily routine of distressing procedures during which they were roughly handled, tightly restrained, force-fed and injected with substances in toxicity trials and immobilised in plastic stocks known as 'primate chairs'.

Certain staff were physically as well as verbally aggressive to the animals, creating a highly threatening atmosphere. Caught on the BUAV undercover camera, staff can be seen entertaining themselves by mocking and taunting the monkeys, even during testing. Monkeys were forced to 'dance' to disco music on the radio, even rocking their heads in time to a song whilst another member of staff is seen trying to insert a tube down the throat for oral dosing.

The BUAV believes its undercover video footage provides clear evidence that Covance is breaking both German national animal welfare law and European Union legislation governing the housing and treatment of laboratory animals. The BUAV is calling for legal action to be taken against the company.

World renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, who had a private viewing of the BUAV video, said:

"I've spent my life in the wild, I know what it's like for a social living creature with the intelligence of a monkey. To see a monkey alone in a cage like that, with nothing to do so that they go completely crazed with boredom and sadness probably, it's deeply, deeply disturbing.
"To use monkeys in experiments like this, is absolutely not acceptable. The video that I saw showing how these helpless animals were treated, the brutality, the callousness, the joking and laughing, the total lack of dignity; they were being treated like inanimate things, and it deeply shocked me. It made me extremely angry and something has to be done about it, we have to stop it now."

Wendy Higgins, Campaigns Director for the BUAV, says:

"The conditions the BUAV uncovered at Covance were utterly shameful. We were shocked to discover how these poor animals had to endure a life of verbal and physical abuse as well as painful and distressing experiments and a barren existence in woefully inadequate conditions - it must be like a life of hell for these intelligent, highly sentient animals. The BUAV is renewing its call for a total ban on all experiments on monkeys in the EU. Deliberately subjecting these beautiful animals to painful and lethal experiments is not only morally unjustifiable, it is also scientifically inexcusable. We all want to see safe drugs and cures to human diseases, but there are too many significant species differences to ever make vivisection a reliable methodology, and there are non-animal tests that could offer more relevant results."

Emily McIvor, EU Political Co-ordinator for the ECEAE, says:

"As the EU progresses its review of EU Directive 86/609 governing animal experiments, and considers in particular calls for an EU ban on all primate experiments, our evidence will be vital in showing EU politicians not only the grim reality of primate toxicity testing but also how easy it is for current legislation to be flouted even by multinational companies like Covance."

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