An animal rights group has produced a hidden-camera video and sued the Alexandria animal specimen business Bio Corporation, whose owner says he is "not scared at all" about the group's allegations.
The video shows workers drowning conscious pigeons in a vat of water, injecting live crayfish with liquid latex dye in order to kill them, and discussing how frozen turtles shipped to the facility sometimes came "back to life" and were refrozen.
Bio Corp, 3911 Nevada Street SW, is a supplier of animal specimens that are preserved and shipped to classrooms around the country to help students learn about anatomy and biology.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently filed a civil lawsuit in Douglas County District Court against the company and has also filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels confirmed that the case is under investigation.
Newsweek published an online story about PETA's undercover video on its website on Tuesday, Nov. 21. It reported that PETA wanted to investigate how animal specimens are prepared and it focused on Bio Corp when a job opened up there. An animal rights activist landed the job and then took the video.
When contacted on Tuesday, Bio Corp owner Ben Hedstrom said his company isn't doing anything wrong.
"We are a family owned and operated business that abides by all state and federal regulations," he said.
"I'm not scared of these people at all," he added, referring to PETA.
Hedstrom also defended Bio Corp's work. "I believe that dissecting animals in schools is very important and very educational," he said. "The students are working with real tissue. ...The things we are doing are helping students learn in the classroom."
Hedstrom said he was aware that a lawsuit had been filed by PETA weeks ago but he didn't know specific details. Newsweek reported that a judge, after reviewing the video and an affidavit from the person who shot it, told police to investigate Bio Corp for potentially illegal practices involving animal cruelty.
Bio Corp has been operating in Alexandria for more than 25 years and currently employs 48 people, according to Hedstrom.
PETA's humane education division, TeachKind, is sending letters urging the dozens of school districts nationwide that purchased specimens from Bio Corporation to eliminate dissection from their schools.
"This classroom dissection supplier was a warehouse of horrors, where birds were drowned, crayfish were pumped full of latex dye, and staff boasted of freezing turtles alive," said PETA Senior Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg in a news release. "PETA is calling on schools to stop paying for animals to suffer and die by replacing animal dissection with modern, sophisticated virtual dissection."
According to PETA, animal shelters sell dead cats, typically for a few dollars each, to dissection suppliers like Bio Corporation, which made $9.8 million in 2016.
PETA alleges that workers at the company kept dozens of dead cats' collars hanging from a shelf as a "tradition."
PETA said that workers without respirators injected dead animals with buffered formaldehyde, and faulty formaldehyde lines sprayed workers in the face. PETA said that an eyewitness's air-quality monitor consistently showed "severely polluted" and "hazardous" conditions.
PETA offers dissection software through its educational grants program. The organization says non-animal educational tools have been shown to teach anatomy as well as, or better than, dissection.
PETA's video blurs out the faces of workers at Bio Corp but voices can be heard. In addition to showing animal specimens being prepared, it does include some foul language.