From Kathy Benz & Michael McManus
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A leading animal rights group has accused a northern Virginia laboratory of animal cruelty -- including charges of punching and choking lab monkeys -- and has produced a videotape to prove it.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released its findings after an 11-month undercover investigation at an animal-testing lab owned by Covance, a Princeton, New Jersey-based company.
PETA has sent the 253-page complaint and a videotape to the Department of Agriculture, requesting the lab be shut down until an investigation can be conducted.
A spokesman for the group says the video was shot at the facility and shows violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.
PETA's undercover investigator was hired by Covance as a technician in its primate toxicology department. Between April 26, 2004 and March 11, 2005, she taped activity inside the laboratory primate rooms.
According to PETA, she compiled the information and the video because of recurring alleged violations of animal battery, abuse and neglect.
"The tape shows experimenters using their power over the monkeys to torture and torment them, while lab supervisors stand by or even join in," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.
Covance released a statement saying PETA never approached the company about the allegations or gave it a copy of the videotape or report.
"If and when we receive these materials, we will immediately review the allegations," it said.
Covance's statement also says it has a 50-year history of government-regulated compliance. In addition, Covance says that if it finds any evidence of wrongdoing, it will take actions to correct the problems.
PETA says the government agency charged with policing the labs also shares some of the guilt. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture is empowered to stop this type of abuse, yet its inspectors only enter these monkey prisons once a year, and everyone at the labs knows which day that is."
Last November the Department of Agriculture visited the Covance lab in question and concluded the Animal Welfare Act had not been violated.