by David Safier
A few days ago I posted about a Senate vote by Al Melvin to exempt animal testing research facilities from Arizona's animal cruelty laws.
Melvin's was the deciding vote to move SB1159 out of committee. The 4 Republicans voted Yes, the 3 Democrats voted No.
The bill was written specifically for Covance, Inc., a multinational specializing in animal testing, which set up shop in Chandler in 2009. If it wasn't bound by state animal cruelty laws, Covance could have more latitude in the way it treats — or mistreats — its animals.
The thing is, Melvin makes a big deal about his love of animals and his support of animal welfare. From his campaign website:
One of my goals is to be a key Senator in the Arizona State Senate regarding animal welfare issues. By 2020, Arizona can be a NO-KILL state by pursuing affordable, and preferably free, spaying and neutering of dogs and cats. . . . I want to establish an Arizona Animal Welfare Foundation, so our citizens can include it in their trusts to finance animal welfare projects in Arizona, including horse rescue projects.
Melvin doesn't say anything about his position on animal testing in laboratories, but even if he is OK with animal testing, Covance's record should make any animal lover blanch.
[NOTE: I'm new at looking into this field and am depending on web research. If I make any errors or incorrect assumptions, I hope someone will correct me.]
Covance uses lots of animals in its research:
It is the single largest importer of primates in the U.S. and the world's largest breeder of laboratory dogs. It owns two dog-breeding facilities, two primate centers, and a rabbit-breeding facility.
In recent years, there have been numerous allegations of animal abuse by Covance, some of which can be seen in this ABC 15 news story from 2006 when Covance was getting ready to build its Chandler facility.
Among the many horror stories on the web, one of the most chilling, and one which should give dog-lover Melvin pause, is about a study conducted from 1978 to 1980 when Covance was known as Hazleton Laboratories. It was studying the cardiovascular effects of cigarette smoke. It used "204 permanently tracheostomized male beagles."
The dogs were forced to inhale all of the mainstream smoke generated by six cigarettes a day while being fed diets of varying levels of cholesterol. A number of dogs died during the study. The study concluded that smoking may have "a possible protective effect" and "lent no support to the suggestion that cigarette smoking increases the rate of development of atherosclerosis."
Note the conclusion that cigarette smoke isn't dangerous. This is part of a pattern at Covance, which has conducted lots of "research" sponsored by the tobacco industry which concludes that smoking isn't really bad for you.
In the 1990s, Covance performed studies sponsored by the tobacco industry claiming that even extreme exposure to secondhand smoke was safe for humans. According to the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, secondhand smoke substantially increases the risks of lung cancer and heart disease. Covance internal documents from 2002 discuss a "Philip Morris/Covance Project Team" for studies. At a November 2005 tobacco trade-group conference in Manila, Philippines, Covance's presentation was entitled: How Can Covance Support Research and Development Needs of the Tobacco Industry?
So much for any claims the company uses animal research to arrive at objective, scientifically valid conclusions.
There's lots more out there about Covance, but I'll just bring up one more point for now.
Covance lobbied hard to get permission to build its animal research facility in Chandler. At the time, it knew what the state animal cruelty laws were. Then, less than a year after it opened shop, it managed to get state Republican legislators, Melvin included, to write legislation changing the rules so it wouldn't be bound by Arizona's animal cruelty laws. (The bill died, by the way, but I have been told we should expect it to see it again in 2011.)