In 1947, Dr. Henry Foster set up an animal breeding facility in Boston, overlooking the Charles River. He bred animals in his lab to supply local researchers. Since then, the company has evolved to a worldwide network focusing on pre-clinical and clinical laboratory services for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as makers of medical devices. Their customers also include major academic institutions and governmental research facilities. More about their animal experimentation can be found on their website.
In 1991, James C Foster – Henry Foster’s son – became CEO of Charles River Laboratories International Inc. (CRL), which is currently based in Wilmington, MA. They employ about 11,000 people worldwide, with operations in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Europe and the United Kingdom. (1)
Laboratories that use species covered by the Animal Welfare Act (all mammals other than mice of the genus Mus, rats of the genus Rattus, and warm blooded farmed animals used in agriculture experimentation; fishes, amphibians, birds bred for experimentation, and reptiles are also excluded) are required to submit an “Annual Report” to the USDA. This Annual Report must state the numbers of animals held and/or used in the facility.
Early in the Trump Administration, the USDA pulled the public database that included these reports, as well as inspection reports. Some (unsearchable) PDFs are now online. As CRL is registered in Massachusetts, the MA report covers CRL’s facilities in other states as well (Nevada, Texas, etc.), but not globally. The 2105 report (pp. 59-60) shows Charles River Laboratories used over 5,400 non-human primates, and many thousands of other covered mammals. To repeat, these numbers do not cover mice, rats, or non-mammals. This also doesn’t cover CRL’s facilities outside the US.
Investigations and Incidents
So many incidents have occurred over the years that The Center for Media and Democracy created its own SourceWatch wiki page on Charles River Laboratories which details CRL’s animal cruelty and welfare violations. Some of the incidents are listed below…
Dog Labs, 2014
In 2014, a CBS News investigation found that the dogs – often beagles – use in their Massachusetts laboratories “are largely subject to euthanasia and many never see the outside of the laboratories.” “Fears of poor conditions for Mass. research dogs,” CBS News.
Chimpanzee Cruelty Charges, 2009
In 2009, In Defense of Animals provided whistleblower evidence about animal cruelty at CRL’s Alamogordo (NM) Primate Facility. Charles River Labs and veterinarian Rick Lee were charged with animal cruelty by the Otero County (NM) District Attorney. According to the charges:
- Ashley, 16 years old, suffered a wound during a fight with another chimpanzee that eventually led to her death.
- Rex, 16 years old, died after being left semi-conscious and vomiting after being anesthetized for a routine physical examination.
- Topsy, 26 years old, lost nearly half her blood from a wound, but managed to survive.
Sample coverage: “Charles River charged after deaths of chimps,” Boston.com.
Monkeys Cooked Alive, 2008
At Charles River Laboratories’ Sparks, NV facility, “Thirty dead monkeys [long-tailed macaques] were essentially cooked alive after someone left the heater on. Two others were near death and had to be euthanized.” The USDA (charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act’s standards for research animals) said it did enter into an out-of-court $10,000 financial settlement with CRL. PETA noted that the USDA didn’t open an investigation until PETA filed a complaint, after receiving an anonymous letter. “Outcry Over Grisly Deaths in Lab Monkeys,” CBS News.
Monkey boiled alive, 2009
A monkey was “literally boiled alive” when workers at Charles River Laboratories’ left her in a cage sent through an industrial cage washer. “Monkey at Reno Research Lab Killed,” KOLO (ABC).
PETA and Charles River Laboratories
CRL has been the target of many animal advocacy organizations. The most visible of these has been People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA named CRL’s James Foster the worst of their “Dirty Dozen” Worst CEOs for Animals in Laboratories. At the time, PETA cited a Wall Street Journal article that said about CRL, “The company supplies one of every two animals used in laboratory research.”
PETA has put together this overview of animal use at Charles River Labs. In 2010, Lufthansa Airlines announced a new policy prohibiting the transport of dogs and cats to laboratories. This was after a short campaign launched by PETA.
On March 13, 2017, CRL paid the US government $1.8 million to settle charges that CRL had over-billed on National Institutes of Health contracts. The Department of Justice used the False Claims Act to pursue these changes (4).
In 2014, CRL agreed to a consent order to settle Federal Trade Commission’s charges that they falsely claimed they were in compliance with the U.S.-European Union and U.S.-Switzerland Safe Harbor programs, although they had let their certifications lapse. (These programs concern the transfer of consumer data.) (5)
In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General found that NIH’s contract with CRL didn’t comply with appropriate statutes, These contracts were for laboratory technical services (5).
For fiscal year 2016, CRL had revenue of $1.68 billion, up from $1.36 for fiscal year 2015. Net income for 2016 was $155 million, up from $149 million in 2015 (2).
As of June 14, 2017, CRL was trading at around 94, giving it a market capitalization of about $4.5 billion and a price/earnings ratio of 27.6. Its Its 52 week range has been 67.20 – 95.83. CRL’s one year return is 13.78% (3).