By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Animal rights activists urged officials and residents to reject a testing lab that a New Jersey drug manufacturing services firm plans to build in Prince William County.
Representatives from the Norfolk chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, speaking Wednesday at a conference at the Prince William County Government Center, said they wanted state and county officials to withdraw support for the lab proposed by Covance of Princeton, N.J.
"Prince William County should be closing the door on Covance, not rolling out the red carpet and raiding the public coffers," said Kathy Guillermo, director of PETA's Laboratory Investigations Department.
PETA, which advocates for the abolishment of animal testing, presented videos and other information that the group said showed Covance's treatment of animals. In 2005, PETA conducted an undercover investigation of Covance's lab at Vienna. A PETA worker videotaped primates that were choked, hit and denied medical attention even when badly injured, PETA said.
"They position themselves as a company that brings miracles to the market, but really they are a dirty company that makes money off the backs of animals," PETA senior researcher Alka Chandra said at the conference.
Mona Terrell, a spokeswoman for Covance, said the issues PETA raised during the conference have been investigated and resolved. The Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration investigated the claims and Covance was fined $8,720.
"PETA's mission is to oppose the use of all animal research by any medical organization even if it were to lead to a cure or new treatments for cancer, diabetes and other diseases that claim millions every year," Terrell said.
Covance has conducted medical research in Northern Virginia for more than 60 years, Terrell said. The company received about $3.7 million in state and county incentives to build a 410,000-square-foot plant at the Innovation at Prince William Technology Park, the site of a partially finished facility by Eli Lilly. The Indianapolis pharmaceutical firm abandoned plans to complete the insulin manufacturing plant.
Covance plans to invest about $175 million in the Prince William facility. The company will relocate 450 Covance employees and add 100 positions in the county over the next six years.
This is not the first time Covance and PETA have clashed. In 2005, Covance sued PETA after the videotape of the Vienna facility surfaced. The lawsuit charged PETA with fraud, violation of employee contract and conspiracy to harm the company's business. Covance later dropped the suit.
Staff writer Alejandro Lazo contributed to this report.