Covance Should Not Bury Its Head in the Sand

Just when you think testing firms are finally getting the message about the animal rights movement, along comes somebody to prove that some folks in the industry still have not learned a thing from the campaign targeting Huntingdon Life Sciences.

In an article for The Financial Times (London), David Firn contacted several biotechnology and testing firms. Most of the firms seem to grasp how dangerous the animal rights movement is to their business. The BioIndustry Organization, which represents British biotech firms, supports efforts to allow shareholder anonymity in companies likely to be targeted by violent protesters.

But the folks at animal testing firm Covance just don’t get it. Covance’s market is largely the same as that of HLS. It is a contract research organization — pharmaceutical firms that need to test drug compound contract with Covance to perform such tests. Covance has facilities in the United States, Germany, Great Britain and elsewhere, and does extensive animal testing including with specially-bred dogs and rabbits.

Yet Chris Springall, head of toxicology for Covance’s UK operations, tells Firn that his firm is not too concerned about animal rights activists targeting his firm. The way Firn describes it, Springall sees HLS as a special case. Huntingdon was targeted because of 1998 documentary that made allegations of cruelty against HLS. Because of this, Springall argues that,

HLS was targeted by a special organization, SHAC. (SHAC) could easily be transferred to the US but we are not anticipating any difficulties.

Springall and others at Covance are burying their heads in the sand if they think that SHAC is going to simply fade away should it ever achieve its goal of driving HLS out of business. Such a victory would immediately make Covance, Quintiles, and other testing firms immediate targets of opportunity, using the same strategy that has been deployed relatively successfully against HLS.

Whether or not it is accurate, clearly Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty clearly believes it has the pharmaceutical industry on the run and living in fear, and it is hardly like to be satisfied for long with simply harassing HLS.


Silent message to animal rights activists: The events at Huntingdon Life Sciences have cast a shadow of fear over the pharmaceutical industry. David Firn, The Financial Times (London) January 11, 2002.

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