Group protests testing facility in Chandler - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Group protests testing facility in Chandler

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Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2009 6:02 pm | Updated: 3:14 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Waving signs with slogans like "Covance is blood money for Chandler" and "Covance kills beagles for Big Tobacco," about 40 humans and two beagles rallied outside the drug testing lab Sunday to protest animal testing and Covance's presence in Chandler.

Covance opened its $175 million lab in late March near Ryan and Gilbert roads. Plans call for the facility to eventually span 77 acres.

Sunday's protest coincided with demonstrations around the globe for World Week for Animals in Laboratories. The beagles, which wore capes bearing biohazard logos, represented the animals Covance performs tests on.

Animal testing doesn't always correlate to how well a drug works in humans, said Chandler resident Rebecca Schneider.

And with methods ranging from creating biological tissue samples to computer modelling, there are safer and more reliable methods to test drugs without harming animals, Schneider said.

But federal law requires animal testing, so protests like Sunday's were important to raise awareness of the issue and get people to lobby Congress for change, said Schneider, who plans to run against U.S. Rep Jeff Flake in Arizona's sixth district next year.

"We have to move into the 21st century for testing. It will make it so much safer for humans," Schneider said.

Concerns specifically about Covance were brought up, too. Karen Michael, a member of the Animal Defense League of Arizona and Peoria resident, raised concerns about a USDA reports on the treatment of animals and diseases in Covance's Virginia facility and other incidents with the company in other states. The group organizing the protest, Citizens Against Covance, has the Virginia reports posted on its Web site, www.stopcovance.com.

Michael questioned whether the company and Chandler were prepared to deal a possible outbreak and worried Covance hasn't publicly said what it is doing with animal carcasses generated from experiments.

"They refuse to address possible ramifications," Michael said.

Local Covance spokeswoman Camilla Strongin said the company has a strong regulatory track record. The situation at the Virginia quarantine facility was handled in 2005 and resulted in a $8,720 fine, she said.

"Making that sound like it has anything to do with the Chandler facility is a spread of misinformation," she said.

The Chandler lab contracts with an outside company to carry animal carcasses offsite and destroy them, Strongin said. Covance isn't obligated to reveal which company it works with under federal law to prevent retaliation against that company, she said.

But protestors say they're not done. The group plans to have a candlelight vigil Friday and another rally on Saturday.

Even though the facility is operating, continued protests serve a purpose, said organizer Janice McClellan.

"To make them know we have not gone away," McClellan said. "We're going to keep on top of their federal records."

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