Covance, Inc, a subsidiary of LabCorp, is one of the world’s largest contract research organizations. They do animal testing, drug development, nutritional chemistry, and food safety studies for other companies and government agencies. Their main headquarters is in Princeton, NJ. Covance has over 15,000 employees operating in facilities in over 60 countries. (1)

Their Covance Research Products (CRP) division – which is based in Denver, PA – deals in the import, breeding, and sale of nonhuman animals for use in labs. CRP breeds and sells pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, and nonhuman primates; they also traffic in wild-caught primates. They have created and trademarked new breeds of animals, such as their “mini-mongrel” dog. CRP runs Germany’s largest nonhuman primate lab in Münster. While records were public, Covance was the largest importer of primates in the US[1]; they are the world’s largest breeder of laboratory dogs. (2)

Covance originated as Environmental Sciences Corporation, founded in Seattle in 1968. It was eventually purchased by Corning Glass Works, which spun off its lab testing and pharmaceutical services, creating two new companies, Quest Diagnostics and Covance in 1996. At this point, Covance became a publicly-traded company. In February 2015 LabCorp, based in Burlington, NC, acquired Covance. (3) LabCorp paid $107.19 per share; Covance’s shares had been trading at just below $80 before the deal was announced. (4)


Primate Abuse, Münster, Germany

In 2003, Friedrich Mülln, a German investigative journalist, went to work in Covance’s Münster, Germany facility. He collected undercover footage for five months, which was then shown on German public television in December of that year.

As reported by the science journal Nature (one of the two most prestigious scientific journals) and as can be seen in the video footage, workers handled the monkeys extremely roughly, and shouted loudly at them. Mülln’s footage showed the monkeys living alone, isolated in small wire cages with no natural light and no environmental enrichment. The monkeys also underwent surgery with no post-operative care. (5, 6)

Excerpts from Jane Goodall’s review of the case:
The small cages which are typical for monkeys used in medical research all around the world, these tiny wire, barren cages, with usually nothing in them at all, they are so horrendous. I mean, I’ve spent my life in the wild, I know what it’s like for a social living creature with the intelligence of a monkey. They have this rich social life, they’re surrounded by their family, they’re challenged every day, their minds are working and their lives are just fantastic out in the forest.

And to see a monkey alone in a cage like that, with nothing to do so that they go completely crazed with boredom and sadness probably, it’s deeply, deeply disturbing. The video that I saw showing how these helpless animals were treated, the brutality, the callousness, the joking and laughing, the total lack of dignity, they were being treated like things, like inanimate things, and it deeply shocked me. It made me extremely angry and something has to be done about it, and I don’t see how you can have a group of people sitting to judge whether or not this should be allowed, who can see that film and not come away and say we have to stop it now.

And one of the things I think is so disturbing, you see this small monkey and he or she, pregnant females too, being dragged out of their cages, resisting with every ounce of strength they have out of total terror, total fear, total panic. And they have no way of escaping, they are using every little thing they have inside them to get out, and it just makes you want to start weeping, because they are helpless and there is nothing they can do. And then on top of that to be treated so cruelly, so brutally, so callously, it doesn’t bear thinking about. And it is going on every single day…. (7)

Covance went to court to suppress the video in Germany, Poisoning for Profit,[2] saying it violated Covance’s “personality rights.” In 2004, a court in Germany granted Covance their injunction. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights refused to lift the injunction. However, the video is now viewable on YouTube. (8)


Primate Abuse, Vienna, VA

From a period of time during 2004-2005, an undercover investigator documented regular and widespread abuse and “terror, sadness, sickness, injuries, suffering, and death” at Covance’s Vienna, VA laboratories. (9) As a result of the investigation, a 273 page complaint, documenting violations of the Animal Welfare Act, was filed with the US Department of Agriculture. As documented in the complaint and shown in the disturbing video footage, these violations include:

  • “Striking, choking, screaming and cursing at ‘uncooperative,’ frightened and sick monkeys.
  • Slamming monkeys into their cages after they’ve had dosing tubes inserted down their noses and throats.
  • Hosing down cages with sick, injured or recovering monkeys and/or dogs still inside.
  • Slamming cages to terrorize loose monkeys out of hiding. Slamming the head of an escaped monkey against concrete.
  • Denial of veterinary care and deaths in drug tests in which the veterinarian was forbidden to examine, treat or euthanize.
  • Inappropriate sized dosing tubes – small monkeys dosed with large tubes forced up their nostrils and down into their stomachs, causing choking, gagging, and daily bloody noses.
  • Self-mutilation resulting from Covance’s failure to provide psychological enrichment and socialization.
  • Injuries left untreated until they became necrotic. Broken arm untreated for 4 days.
  • Non-stop blaring loud rock music, creating discomfort and alarm.
  • Physical and psychological abuse of primates falling outside of the written study parameters.
  • Falsifying records to cover up problems with the health of study animals and worker incompetence.
  • Lack of employee training and supervision. Uncertified employees anesthetizing animals.
  • Teasing, taunting, and yelling at primates for amusement.
  • Knowingly using unhealthy animals in studies.
  • Painful procedures performed in full view of other primates. Improperly grounded medical equipment burning research animals.
  • During new technician training the new employees were told that there is nothing wrong with screaming or cursing at the monkeys, and forcing the monkeys to ‘dance.’
  • Removing the quarantine sign from the quarantine room so that employees did not have to wear the required medical protection gowns.
  • Intoxicated employees performing lab procedures on monkeys.
  • Covance research director not euthanizing sick monkeys when directed to do so by the veterinarian.
  • Failure to isolate imported primates. Malaria-infected monkeys still used in studies for pharmaceuticals.
  • Lying about the cause of death for three monkeys found dead in their cages.”

After the investigation was released, Covance filed lawsuits to try to suppress the video footage. A British judge found the footage “highly disturbing” and noted the “rough manner in which animals are handled and the bleakness of the surroundings in which they are kept … at least cry out for explanation.” (10) Ultimately, Covance’s bid to squash the footage was denied. In the UK, Covance had to pay £145,000 ($290,000), some of which went to an anti-Covance campaign there. (11) In the US, the USDA only fined Covance $8,720 for all the violations noted above.

In 2010, Covance announced they were closing the Vienna, VA facility. (12) In 2012, they closed their Chandler, AZ facility. (13)

Macaques Baked to Death and Illegal Transport

In two different incidences in 2014, a total of 13 macaques died of hypothermia at Covance’s Alice, TX facility. The USDA also cited Covance for knowingly transporting primates without water and despite malfunctioning air conditioning systems. From the citation:

“Covance directed transporters to travel without stopping to the Covance facility, despite being aware that the airline had not provided water as required, that the transport trailers’ air conditioning units were malfunctioning and that at least five nonhuman primates were weak and in distress.” (14, 15)

In 2016, the USDA fined Covance $31,500 for these violations of the Animal Welfare Act. (16) [3]



In the 1990s, Covance performed studies for the tobacco industry which claimed even extreme exposure to secondhand smoke was safe for humans. Covance internal documents from 2002 discuss a “Philip Morris/Covance Project Team.” 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?” (17, 18)


To test the artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose), thousands of monkeys, rabbits, mice and rats were killed during tests in the United Kingdom. Many died of trauma and others suffered from extreme weight loss, convulsions and intestinal disorders. Some of these experiments were conducted at the Covance facility at Harrogate, Yorkshire. (19)


The Future

Recently, Covance partnered with Emulate, a company that spun off from Harvard University’s Wyss institute. They develop “organ-on-a-chip” technologies, which use human-derived tissue and will supplant the use of animals in testing. (20) In essence, Covance’s deal with Emulate signals an understanding that the future of testing of pharmaceutical compounds, chemicals, personal care products, etc. is in human-relevant technologies such as tissue chips and not archaic animal tests.[4]


In early 2017, LabCorp announced a “realignment” to slim down its Covance division after a fall in the latter’s earnings (as of early 2017, Covance represents about 29% of LabCorp’s total revenue). LabCorp expects $30 million in costs associated with severance packages and closing facilities. (21)

For fiscal year 2016, LabCorp Holdings (LH) had revenue of $9.64 billion, up from $8.68 billion for fiscal year 2015. Net income for 2016 was $732 million, up from $437 million in 2015. (22) As of June 22, 2017, LH was trading at around 149, giving it a market capitalization of about $14.8 billion and a price/earnings ratio of 20.7. Its Its 52 week range has been 119.51 – 149.36. LH’s one year return is 15.32%. (22)

The Center for Media and Democracy has a Sourcewatch page for Covance: (23)


[1] For several years now, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been redacting importer information and number of monkeys from documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Thus, it is unknown if Covance is still the leading importer of primates into the US.

[2] Video link valid as of June 21, 2017.

[3] There are other violations (please contact us to receive pdfs of USDA citations submitted with this report).

[4] Personal communication from Dr. Alka Chandna.


June 2017