PETA resists video footage injunction

US company fails to stop transmission of undercover filming of alleged animal cruelty

An attempt by a US pharmaceutical testing company to prevent publication in the UK of undercover footage taken inside a US primate experimentation facility has failed.


HHJ Langan QC, sitting in the Chancery Division of Leeds District Registry, today dismissed an application by Covance Laboratories Inc for an interim injunction restraining the publication by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Europe Limited of film material taken undercover in Covance’s facility in Vienna, Virginia, USA.


For several months in 2004 and 2005 a Covance employee carried out undercover filming of drug testing on monkeys by Covance. On 17 May 2005 an edited version of that footage, a detailed description of what the employee claimed to have seen and still images taken from the footage, were published on the websites of PETA groups throughout the world, including that operated by PETA Europe Ltd in the UK. On 18 May 2005 Covance ontained an injunction without notice at the Leeds District Registry.


Dismissing the application, HHJ Langan QC described the footage which Covance sought to restrain as “highly disturbing”, saying that 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.” He was prepared to assume for the purposes of the application that the footage was confidential but ruled that the public interest defence “has an usually strong chance of success at trial” and that the public domain defence also had a good prospect of success. Applying s.12 Human Rights Act 1998 the Judge found that failure at trial was “a strong probability”. He held “the arguments against the grant of an interim injunction are cumulative and, in my judgment, overwhelming.”


On a freestanding ground the Judge said he would have refused the relief sought solely on the basis that “what lies at the heart of this application is the desire of [Covance] to protect the reputation of the group of which it forms part.”


PETA Europe was awarded its costs of resisting the application, with an interim payment of £50,000 to be made in 14 days. Permission to appeal was refused but the injunction was continued for 14 days to allow Covance to apply to the Court of Appeal.


PETA Europe was represented by 5RB‘s Desmond Browne QC and Jacob Dean, instructed by Nabarro Nathanson.


Click here for the 5RB case report and judgment.