In a special to the Arizona Republic on Sunday, September 3, 2006, Dr. George Poste advocates for animal testing as a necessary research tool. Dr. Poste’s credentials as a veterinarian and director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) are duly noted. He claims 30 years in biomedical research as corroboration for his assertion that animal testing saves lives.

But don’t think of a technician hunched, peering into a test tube when picturing Dr. Poste. His employment at SmithKline Beecham – one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world – as CTO and President of R&D, from 1992 to 1999, is not a lab-coated position; and hands-on research has little to do with directorship roles at ASU.

The Biodesign Institute touts Dr. Poste’s recognition for “outstanding achievement in advancing human health worldwide” for receiving in June of this year, the Albert Einstein Award in Jerusalem during the 3rd Annual Life Science Mission to Israel, presented by the Global Business Leadership Council (GBLC). So who is the GBLC? The GBLC works in association with Global Capital Associates (GCA) to recognize Business leaders who “exhibit entrepreneurial spirit above and beyond the norm”. GCA is an offshoot of Irwin Katsof’s work as CEO of the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah. Their mission is to bring American business leaders to Israel to “explore joint ventures and strategic partnerships”.

So how, you may ask, do these business ventures translate to advancing human health? Well, Covance, a multi-national drug development services company with annual revenues over $1 billion, operating in 18 countries has designs on property in Chandler, Arizona with the intentions of building one of the largest test facilities in the nation, see [ previous post ]. Lots of venture capitalists might get healthy over these developments. Not incidentally, Covance has been under fire for their use of animals in medical toxicity studies, and Dr. Poste chooses to champion the case for using animals in medical testing, in tacit support of Covance , without specifically endorsing the plan to build in Chandler. The doctor instead discourages “reducing complex issues to oversimplified sound bites” when faced with “tough moral and ethical issues” of animal testing.

Yet in classic “do as I say, not as I do” form, Dr. Poste portraits animal rights advocates as “extremist groups about the needs for animal research”, and concerning human empathy toward animals used in medical research, he states, “animal extremists prey on this discomfort”. The doctor instead preys on society’s fear by accusing animal activists of violence and terrorist threats. Instead of positing a credible case for animal testing, Dr. Poste smears those who oppose the use of animals in research.

The doctor takes umbrage with “well-funded national groups” who “often disguise their involvement to make it appear local citizens are leading the effort” in support of animal rights, as if ethics is a local vs. national issue or that somehow the installation of a multi-national corporation in Chandler, AZ is but a local matter.

Covance has hired high-powered [local ] and national public relations firms to advocate for acceptance of their plans for a Chandler, Arizona facility. The Phoenix public affairs firm, Goodman Schwartz (GS), will represent Covance in their bid to rezone agricultural land to allow industrial use. Among clients of GS in the Phoenix metropolitan area are WalMart and Arizona Public Service (APS), the local power utility company. Carmilla J. Strongin, public relations person for GS in matters concerning Covance, is a former spokesperson for Arizona Dept. of Corrections and a former press aide for Republican Matt Salmon in his unsuccessful bid for governor of AZ in 2002. She is partnered with Fife Symington the former Republican Governor of AZ who was indicted and convicted of bank fraud in 1997, though subsequently pardoned.

Strongin states that GS will “only take on things that they believe in”. Among things advocated professionally by Strongin, an opposing anti-smoking piece of legislation to appear this fall on the [ Nov. 7 ballot ]. The bill pushed by Strongin would allow smoking in bars and would overturn smoking bans enacted by individual cities. The bill is heavily financed by tobacco companies, and unlike a competing proposal calling for a statewide ban in most public places, would not provide any funding for enforcement, according to former Attorney General Grant Woods, who supports the more restrictive bill opposed by Strongin and big tobacco.

And on the national level, the local group Citizens against Covance has been continuously smeared by lobbyist Rick Berman’s front group the Center for Consumer Freedom, who specialize in attacking activists who oppose his corporate clients. So why does Dr. Poste rail about the use of outside influence, when this is the tactic of choice among corporate giants like Covance?
More to follow on the ethical use of animals in medical testing, when that is the real argument to discuss.

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