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Dept. of Defense Defies Congress, Medicine, and Common Sense

Written by Michelle Kretzer | April 19, 2013

Americans were outraged last year after they saw video footage released by PETA that showed a U.S. military trauma training course in which goats were moaning and kicking as instructors stabbed them, hacked off their limbs with tree trimmers, and yanked out their internal organs. The video brought national attention to the military’s crude trauma training procedures on animals.

But outrage turned to cheers when President Barack Obama signed into law a bill containing a clause requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to create a strategy for replacing the shooting, stabbing, and dismembering of animals in training drills with non-animal methods. It was the first time in history that Congress had passed a measure aimed at protecting animals from abuse in military training exercises.

The deadline has arrived for the DOD to release its strategy, but instead of following congressional orders and taking the opportunity to modernize military training, the DOD instead provided a litany of excuses. Justin Goodman, PETA’s director of laboratory investigations, blasted the report in a public statement:

April 18, 2013

The Department of Defense (DOD) report released today is a regurgitation of baseless excuses for the continued shooting, stabbing, dismembering, and killing of thousands of animals in crude medical training drills. The technology to fully replace animals in military training already exists, and military regulations require that they be used. The only thing delaying the complete transition to modern methods that will save human and animal lives is a lack of honesty and political will among the entrenched Pentagon leadership.

The report, mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act, was supposed to provide Congress with a detailed strategy and timeline for the phase-out of these animal laboratories. The report does not do this, though, and it ignores the fact that more than three-quarters of the U.S.’ NATO allies currently train military personnel without harming any animals, as do a number of U.S. military installations around the world. The new DOD document also completely omits any mention of the extensive military and civilian medical research showing that existing simulators and other non-animal training methods better prepare medics and doctors to treat traumatic injuries in humans. The DOD has been aware of all this for years and has even admitted that “there still is no evidence that [trauma training on animals] saves lives.”

Fortunately, despite this short-sighted and misleading report, the Army recently confirmed to PETA that it has independently taken action to begin a scale-down of animal use in its trauma training programs and has begun by prohibiting nonmedical service members from participating in the killings.

PETA does not intend to let the DOD shirk its responsibility. Help keep the pressure on by urging your congressional representatives to demand that the DOD spare animal lives and better prepare our troops to treat wounded soldiers by replacing animals with lifelike human-patient simulators.

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