PETA, Procter & Gamble, and the Rokke Horror Picture Show

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:

CINCINNATI––A Procter & Gamble probe of
alleged animal abuse at Huntingdon Life Sciences in East
Millstone, New Jersey, supports charges leveled on June 4 by
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
P&G that day suspended testing work contracted out
to Huntingdon, after three P&G public relations staffers
attended a PETA press conference featuring a nine-minute
covert video made by PETA undercover investigator Michelle
Rokke, a three-year staffer who obtained employment with
Huntingdon as a laboratory animal care technician.
PETA the same day introduced the Rokke video as
evidence in support of a 37-page complaint to the USDA accusing
Huntingdon of multiple Animal Welfare Act violations.
“We’re citing inadequate veterinary care, improper
training, and violation of AWA caging requirements,” said
PETA director of investigations Mary Beth Sweetland.
Reported Jeff Harrington of the Cincinnati Enquirer,
“PETA’s video shows technicians dangling monkeys, yelling
at them, throwing some of them into cages and threading tubes
down their noses. At one point a monkey displays movement
and a quickened heartbeat when a technician cuts into his chest.

The technician remarks, ‘This guy could be out a little more,’
as he continues to slice.” PETA’s complaint alleged the technician
was conducting a necropsy on a live monkey.
Harrington said PETA officials “repeatedly tried to
deflect attention onto P&G and away from Huntingdon, refusing
to discuss other work Huntingdon did for companies or to
refer to the lab by name.” Most P&G research and development
is done in the company’s own laboratories in Mason and
Ross, Ohio, but some specialized work is contracted out.
P&G in a 1984 pact with Henry Spira of Animal
Rights International agreed to phase out animal testing as
promptly as alternatives can be developed, has cut the use of
animals in non-drug consumer product testing by 90%, and has
invested $55 million in developing non-animal testing methods,
but remains under boycott by PETA, In Defense of Animals,
and the Humane Society of the U.S., who demand that P&G
declare a moratorium on all non-mandated animal testing.
“The uncaring and unprofessional attitude of the lab
technicians is not acceptable to us and is inconsistent with our
principles,” P&G spokesperson Mindy Montgomery Patton
said after the media screening.
P&G associate director of corporate communications
Don Tassone indicated that the USDA had already rebuffed
P&G efforts to join in probing the alleged AWA violations.
Both Tassone and Patton emphasized that P&G would proceed
with an independent inquiry.
“We’ve completed our investigation of Huntingdon
Life Sciences and confirmed the behavior of several lab technicians
involved with our studies was inappropriate and unprofessional,”
Patton said on June 24. “As a result, we will not place
any new studies at Huntingdon until we are convinced they can
uphold our standards and the USDA completes its investigation.
Our investigation found that technicians received proper
training in animal care, but need additional ongoing training in
the important responsibility they have to show respect and care
for these animals at all times. Our on-site inspection confirmed
that Huntingdon has appropriate policies and procedures, but
needs additional management supervision in the lab to ensure
P&G requirements are met and technicans conduct their work
in a respectful and caring way.”
Three Huntingdon employees were at fault, Patton
“When we suspended our testing at Huntingdon on
June 4,” she continued, “there were two studies underway for
two new pharmaceutical drugs we’re testing to treat migraines
and bone diseases. These studies are required by the Food and
Drug Administration. We’ll complete them under close supervision
by P&G personnel, who will be on site at the lab for the
balance of this work to ensure our principles and procedures are
followed, and the animals are treated with care and respect. If
we didn’t complete these studies,” Patton concluded, “we’d be
required to start over, using even more animals.”
The study depicted on the PETA video involved 48
primates, all of whom were eventually killed and dissected.
Huntingdon wins gag order
Huntingdon initially called the PETA allegations
“completely false” and part of an “anti-science agenda,” then
on June 20 sued PETA and Rokke for alleged misrepresentation,
breach of employment obligations, invasion of co-workers’
privacy, illegal wiretapping and electronic surveillance,
and theft of “valuable trade secrets.” Preliminary motions were
to be heard July 7. Huntingdon also won a gag order against
PETA from U.S. District Judge Rebecca Smith.
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk noted the similarity
of the Huntingdon suit to one filed against the ABC News magazine
show PrimeTime Live, after undercover reporters took
jobs in Food Lion supermarkets to document the alleged sale of
contaminated meat. Food Lion recently won a jury award of
$5.5 million, but the case is under appeal.
Such cases, Newkirk said, “are saying the media
can’t investigate, and social action groups can’t investigate. So
that leaves the police, and they need a court order.”
Huntingdon president Alan Staple stated in a June 27
release that he had been “informed by Dr. Ron DeHaven, acting
deputy administrator of the Animal Care Division at the
USDA, that they had no concerns about the health or wellbeing
of the animals at this facility.” Further, Staple said,
“Procter & Gamble’s decision to continue its important studies
amounts to vindication.”
“This was released by Huntingdon without o u r
approval or knowledge,” said a handwritten P&G internal
memo, signed by a senior executive and leaked to ANIMAL
PEOPLE by a well-placed recipient. “We do not agree to this
interpretation, and will not be ordering further studies until we
are sure their management practices have changed. We are
going to complete the ongoing studies and that is all.”
Patton confirmed the gist of the message but did not
comment on a suggestion by the same source that P&G might
demand routine closed-circuit video surveillance of Huntingdon
labs as a precondition of having any further work done there.
PETA won previous rounds
PETA has urged many companies to boycott
Huntingdon, said the June 25 edition of the National
Association for Biomedical Research newsletter. After actress
and PETA supporter Kim Basinger appealed in May on behalf
of 36 beagles whose legs were to be broken to test an osteoporosis
drug, the sponsor, the Yamanouchi firm of Japan,
“stopped the study,” NABR News said. “Two other
Huntingdon clients have suspended projects pending the outcome
of their own and USDA investigations. In a similar case
involving undercover video of a Huntingdon laboratory in
Great Britain, taken last year by a former employee working
with the British Union to Abolish Vivisection, the company
quickly took necessary corrective action. The film footage,
which showed a technician shaking and slapping a laboratory
dog, was deservedly condemned in the strongest terms by the
British scientific community. Huntingdon terminated three
technicians, two of whom now face animal cruelty charges,
two managers were demoted, and a department head was
replaced. Technician training and competency assessment programs
were upgraded.”
In Defense of Animals alleged in a February 10 complaint
to the USDA and a simultaneous media release that
“based on whistleblower revelations,” several beagles, a rabbit,
and “an unknown number of rats” had “died of conditions
that may indicate lack of proper monitoring and inadequate veterinary
care” at a P&G drug testing lab in Norwich, New York.
Tassone responded in a letter to IDA on February 11
that, “The assertions are completely false. In fact,” he wrote,
“the USDA just completed its regular audit of this facility, and
found no problems or compliance issues. Further, our testing
at this site doesn’t even involve rabbits.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE is unaware of further developments
in that case.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.