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Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"

Media Coverage

Alleged abuse at Charles River

By Franklin B. Tucker/ Staff Writer
November 2, 2006

Outside the front gate of the nondescript corporate headquarters of Charles River Laboratories on Ballardvale Street, Michael Budkie is on a one man crusade.

The rail thin Ohio native is executive director, driver and lone protester for Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an organization highlighting the abuse to animals he said is occurring in laboratories across the country.

As he stood before the facility on a cool October morning, he said Charles River - one of Wilmingtonís largest firms that employs hundreds of employees - is one of the most cited for animal abuse in New England.

Budkie minces few words on whatís occurring inside the fenced in plant.

"Itís terrorism against animals," he said.

But according to a Charles River Laboratories spokeswoman, Budkieís charges have less to do with animal care as it has with misplaced activism.

"It is unfortunate that animal activist groups such as the one you noted have promoted misinformation in their desire to halt all biomedical research," said Elizabeth Ferber, Charles Riverís director of global communications.

Information provided by Budkie alleges that Charles River violated the federal Animal Welfare Act 22 times in the first nine months of 2005 in the veterinary care and housing of the animals used in research.

The violations, noted by federal inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture and the Institutional Animal Care and Use committee, caused many of the animals - in the case of Charles River the animals were dogs and rabbits - to be in pain and distress including lateral recumbency, lost righting reflex respiration irregular and foreleg, and thorax and nick muscle hypertonic.

Federal law requires institutions using laboratory animals must establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee to oversee and evaluate all aspects of the institutionís animal care and use program.

In one case, on July 21, 2005, the investigator found that nearly 40 of 48 dogs housed in one room at Charles River had lesions on their paws due to the animals being housed in cages with rubber-covered wire bottoms.

Needless suffering?

The result of the violations, Budkie alleges, was the needless death of several animals.

"They are not following their own procedures for animal care," said Budkie.

Nor is Budkieís SAEN the only one making these charges. In fact, the company was taken to court by animal activists in New Mexico where it was found not negligent last year in the death of a number of chimpanzees at its Alamogordo lab

While not addressing the specific charges logged against the company, Charles Riverís Ferber said that the firm "is ethically obligated to the animals under its stewardship and we take that obligation very seriously."

She noted the company is proud of the culture of humane care of laboratory animals it has established - of which more than 95 percent are rats and mice specifically bred for research - through raising awareness and providing training to its employees on the importance of that care which is regulated under a number of stringent laws and regulations.

Ferber also said that Charles River is also a strong supporter of using non-animal methods whenever appropriate.

But in many cases, "testing on animals in the drug development process is not optional," said Ferber, noting that existing laws require that the safety of medicine be initially tested on animals.

"Without animal testing, clinical trials in people would be so dangerous that no authority would allow them to be conducted," she said.

Established in 1946, Charles River makes itís corporate headquarters in Wilmington for the past 40 years.

The firm is a leading lab for the major national and international pharmaceutical and biotech firms along with major hospitals and for governmental research.

Charles Riverís facilities are known for collecting data and analyzing information that helps bring drugs and procedures to the consumer efficiently.

"We are dedicated to fighting human diseases - diseases such as HIV, AIDs, cancer, diabetes and a myriad of life-threatening illnesses that affect millions of people each year," said Ferber.

Charles River reach is significant, with 101 production facilities, offices, and laboratories in 17 countries and approximately 7,500 employees worldwide with more than 500 employees with PhD, MD or Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine degrees.

And itís making money. Last year the company had $1.1 billion in sales - up 46 percent from 2004 - with a net income of $142 million.

The stock has taken a hit, falling from a high of slightly more than $50 per share in late March down to $34 by the 4th of July. But it has been recovering, up 30 percent since its low now around $45 as of this week.

And the business is trending upward. MSNís Stockscouter, a program that predicts future performance, said the mid-cap growth stock garnered a perfect 10 - the best possible rating - as its expected to significantly outperform the market over the next six months with less than average risk.

A significant amount of the money filtering to Charles River comes from the federal government in grants and research funding. With a total of $11 billion in the federal pipeline, companies become addicted to this funding.

"Itís very hard to walk away from that sort of money," said Budkie.

Stifling civil rights?

And the public will have less information on the business and itís treatment of lab animals if recent federal legislation targeting the actions of a few extreme animal activists is passed and signed into law.

Due to violent actions from domestic groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, both houses of congress will be debating legislation that would make it a crime to prevent animal researchers from conducting their work.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which has as co-sponsors in the senate a conservative from Oklahoma and a liberal from California - would make it a federal crime to harass or cause "economic disruption" to animal researchers, suppliers, such as Charles River, alleges Budkie, and people who are simply know a researcher or supplier.

The bills have the backing of a newly formed trade group called the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition, made up of dozens of academic and medical associations and firms such as pharmaceutical firms and research laboratories such as Charles River.

But the current language is so broad, according to Budkie, that any action taken that could affect the profits of the suppliers could be deemed in violating the law.

"So if our Web site with this information causes one customers to no longer use Charles River or another lab, they could say we are terrorist," said Budkie.

He noted that simple civil disobedience - such as blocking one of the three entrances to the Charles River facility could be viewed as an economic disruption.

But according to the senate sponsors, James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, from the Judiciary Committee, introduced the bi-partisan legislation they claim would improve the effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Justiceís response to recent trends in the animal rights terrorist movement.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was drafted with technical assistance from counter-terror experts at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Our bi-partisan legislation will provide law enforcement the tools they need to adequately combat radical animal rights extremistsí who commit violent acts against innocent people because they work with animals," said Inhofe.

"The tactics used by animal rights extremists have evolved in the face of our current laws, and consequently, the scope of their terror is widening," Feinstein said.

"We need the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act to fight these tactics, including the latest trend of targeting any business and associate working with animal research facilities."

But Budkie believes that researchers and their supporters are using the general anxiety related to terrorism to attack the civil liberties of those who oppose animal exploitation.

"Just like the Patriot Act and listening to private phone calls, they are exploiting the times we live in to try and stop the truth from coming out," said Budkie.



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