The Military’s War on Animals
News reports tally the casualties of war, and monuments are erected to honor fallen soldiers, but the nonhuman victims of war—the animals who are shot, burned, poisoned, and otherwise tormented in military experiments and training exercises—are never recognized, nor is their suffering widely publicized.
Published experiments and internal documents obtained from the armed forces reveal that U.S. military agencies test all manner of weaponry on animals, from bombs to biological, chemical, and nuclear agents. Military experiments on animals can be painful, repetitive, costly, and unreliable.
Animals Killed for Military Training
For years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) conducted so-called “wound labs,” during which conscious or semiconscious dogs and other animals were suspended from slings and shot with high-powered weapons to inflict injuries for crude medical training drills. In 1983, after PETA exposed and protested the Army’s plan to purchase dozens of dogs from animal shelters and shoot them on a firing range in Maryland, the military halted the program and permanently banned the use of dogs, cats, and primates in wound treatment experiments and training.(1)
However, the DOD and its contractors as well as companies working for the Department of Homeland Security continue to conduct highly secretive trauma training exercises (often referred to as “live tissue training”) in which thousands of other live animals—mainly pigs and goats—are maimed and killed each year.(2) In a New York Times article, one service member described what happened to a pig during a trauma training exercise: “[Instructors] shot him twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire. … I kept him alive for 15 hours.”(3)
In 2012, PETA released undercover video footage leaked by a whistleblower of a military trauma training course conducted by military contractor Tier 1 Group. In the video, course participants and instructors laugh and joke as live goats have their legs broken and amputated with tree trimmers, are stabbed, and have their internal organs pulled out.(4) Anesthesia was inadequate, as indicated by the fact that some of the goats moan and kick during the mutilations. Following complaints filed by PETA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited and issued an official warning against Tier 1 Group for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.(5) For more on this case, please visit The PETA Files.
Non-Animal Methods Are Superior, Widely Used
In 2012, PETA, along with current and former military doctors, published a study in the journal Military Medicine—the official journal of U.S. military surgeons—showing that nearly 80 percent of our NATO allies do not use any animals for military medical training.(6) In an internal e-mail obtained by PETA, a top Army surgeon candidly admitted to colleagues that “there still is no evidence that [live tissue training on animals] saves lives.”(7) Military regulations even require the use of “methods other than animal use” for training purposes when they are available, yet this policy is not being enforced.(8)
The military’s own research has shown the effectiveness of simulation technology for trauma training.(9,10) Studies have repeatedly found that simulation-based trauma training is superior to crude drills on live animals both for teaching lifesaving medical skills and for improving trainee self-confidence.(11-16) One study by military researchers explained that the use of animals for trauma training is problematic because of inherent limitations such as “differences in anatomy” and “lack of repeatable training.”(17)
The Army’s Rascon School of Combat Medicine at Fort Campbell does not use animals in its training program and has even publicly stated that “[t]raining on [simulators] is more realistic to providing care for a person than training on animals.”(18) The Air Force’s Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills and the Navy Trauma Training Center also do not use animals in medical training for service members.(19,20) More than 98 percent of civilian trauma training courses in the U.S. and Canada use only non-animal training methods.(21,22)
After complaints from PETA and German physicians, German authorities have repeatedly denied attempts by the U.S. Army to maim and kill animals. According to news sources, German state government officials concluded that the procedures would “violate host nation animal protection laws” because “effective alternatives to animals are available.”(23,24,25) In 2012, an expert panel of surgeons convened by a German court determined that animal use for military training was not justifiable, prompting a U.S. contractor to withdraw a lawsuit challenging a denial of its application to mutilate and kill animals.(26)
In 2013, the U.S. Army issued a new policy prohibiting non-medical personnel and some medical personnel from participating in training involving the use of live animals. It states that training for these soldiers, “will be accomplished using alternative methods such as mannequins, moulaged actors, cadavers, or medical simulation technologies.”(27) Previously, many Army personnel who were not even medics or doctors participated in trauma training exercises that involved shooting, stabbing, and dismembering live animals.
Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), which contained a provision requiring the DOD for the first time ever to submit a report to Congress detailing a strategy and time frame for replacing animal use in military training drills with modern simulation and other humane methods.(28) What the DOD ultimately submitted was in defense of the use of animals, ignored the demonstrated superiority of simulation methods and did not provide a time by which it would end animal use.
In 2011, PETA successfully campaigned to get the Army to stop poisoning monkeys in chemical attack training exercises and instead use advanced humanlike simulators.(29) PETA is currently working with Canadian military officials to end similar training drills that use live pigs.(30)
In recent years, PETA has also convinced the Naval Medical Center San Diego and the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth to stop forcing hard plastic tubes down cats’ and ferrets’ windpipes during pediatric intubation training, which can cause bleeding, swelling, pain, scarring, collapsed lungs, and even death.(31,32) Both facilities abandoned the animal laboratories in favor of humane simulation models, as had already been done at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and more than 98 percent of civilian facilities conducting this training.(33-37)
Other military facilities—including Travis Air Force Base and Keesler Air Force Base—continue to subject ferrets to this cruel procedure, and PETA continues to urge them to modernize their programs as well.
In 2014, following an internal review by the Department of Defense regarding its use of animals in medical training, the agency determined that “suitable simulation alternatives can replace the use of live animals” in six major medical educational areas – including for certain trauma and other surgical training courses and infant and pediatric life support skills. The agency also ordered all Service branches to “fully transition to the use of simulations in these programs by no later than January 1, 2015.”(38) Though it is a groundbreaking reform, this policy continues to allow thousands of animals to be used and killed each year for combat trauma training and other military medical exercises.
What You Can Do
Please help improve military training and save thousands of animals from being killed each year in cruel trauma exercises. Send polite correspondence to the following U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security officials urging them to take immediate action to comply with federal regulations and completely replace the use of animals in military trauma training with humane and superior non-animal training methods.
The Honorable Ashton Carter
Secretary of Defense
c/o Michael Bruhn, Executive Secretary
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Kathryn Brinsfield, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.E.P.
Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs (Acting) and Chief Medical Officer
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
1) Associated Press, “Reprieve From Wound Tests Is Ended for Pigs and Goats,” 24 Jan. 1984.
2) U.S. Department of Defense, Final Report of the Use of Live Animals in Medical Education and Training Joint Analysis Team, unclassified publication, Washington, D.C., 12 July 2009.
3) C.J. Chivers, “Tending a Fallen Marine, With Skill, Prayer, and Fury,” The New York Times 2 Nov. 2006.
4) Gil Aegerter and Jeff Black, “Coast Guard Defends Medical Training on Live Animals After PETA Posts Gory Video,” MSNBC.com 19 Apr. 2012.
5) Joanne Kimberlin, “Military Contractor Cited for Treatment of Goats,” The Virginian-Pilot 30 Jun. 2012.
6) S.G. Gala et al., “Use of Animals by NATO Countries in Military Medical Training Exercises: An International Survey,” Military Medicine (2012) 177.8: 907-10.
7) Scott Goodrich, internal U.S. Army Europe e-mail, 15 Sept. 2009.
8) U.S. Department of Defense, “Use of Animals in DOD Programs,” instruction number 3216.01, Washington, D.C., 13 Sept. 2010.
9) R.L. Mabry, “Use of a Hemorrhage Simulator to Train Military Medics,” Military Medicine (2005) 170.11: 921–25.
10C.M. Bowyer et al., “Validation of SimPL—A Simulator for Diagnostic Peritoneal Lavage Training,” Studies in Health Technology and Informatics (2005) 111: 64–7.
11) E.F. Block et al., “Use of a Human Patient Simulator for the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course,” The American Surgeon 68.7 (2002): 648–51.
12) A. Pandya et al., “The Role of TraumaMan in the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course,” Canadian Journal of Surgery (2009) 52 (Suppl.): S3-S19.
13) R.A. Cherry et al., “Current Concepts in Simulation-Based Trauma Education,” Journal of Trauma (2008) 65.5: 1186-93.
14) J. Ali et al., “Teaching Emergency Surgical Skills for Trauma Resuscitation–Mechanical Simulator Versus Animal Model,” ISRN Emergency Medicine (2012) Article ID 259864, 6 pages.
15) I. Sergeev et al., “Training Modalities and Self-Confidence Building in Performance of Life-Saving Procedures,” Military Medicine (2012) 177.8: 901-6.
16) G. Lin et al., “Rapid Preparation of Reserve Military Medical Teams Using Advanced Patient Simulators,” ITACCS (2003): 52.
17) M. Ritter et al., “Simulation for Trauma and Combat Casualty Care,” Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies 14.4-5 (2005): 224-34.
18) S. Hogsed, “PETA: Live Goats Used in Fort Campbell Medic Training,” The Eagle Post 20 Jan. 2010.
19) Department of the Navy, “Statement on the Non Use of Live Animals for Training,” 19 Dec. 2008.
20) Department of the Air Force, “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 08-0051-HS, C-STARS Courses,” 28 Aug. 2008.
21) Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Another Canadian Trauma Training Course Goes Animal Free,” Good Medicine (2010) 9.2.
22) J. Ali et al.
23) Nancy Montgomery, “Germany Again Shoots Down U.S. Army Europe’s Live-Tissue Training,” Stars and Stripes 28 Oct. 2010.
24) John Vandiver and Marcus Kloeckner, “German Ruling Puts USAREUR Plans for Live-Animal Medical Training on Hold,” Stars and Stripes 17 Aug. 2010.
25) Ben Knight, “US Medic Training on Live Pigs Faces Opposition,” The Local 18 Oct. 2011.
26) Jean-Baptiste Piggin and Christian Schneider, “Germany Halts Plan to Shoot Live Pigs for Paramedic Training,” Stars and Stripes 2 Oct. 2012.
27) U.S. Army, “ALARACT 173/2013 – Army Medical Readiness Training Involving Use of Live Animals,” 13 Jul. 2013.
28) H.R. 4310 (112th): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, GovTrack.us, 2013.
29) Marissa Gallo, “PETA Claims Victory, Says Army Will End Monkey Testing at APG,” The Baltimore Sun 13 Oct. 2011.
30) Randy Boswell, “Canadian Military ‘Actively’ Looking to End Animal Use in Medical Training,” Canada.com 16 Aug. 2012.
31) C. Tait, “On the Differences Between a Child and a Kitten,” Journal of Emergency Nursing (2010) 36.1: 78-80.
32) A. Oshodi et al., “Airway Injury Resulting From Repeated Endotracheal Intubation: Possible Prevention Strategies,” Pediatric Critical Care Medicine (2011) 12.1: e34-39.
33) Naval Medical Center San Diego, letter to PETA, 13 Apr. 2011.
34) Bill Sizemore, “Portsmouth Naval Medical Center to End Ferret Use,” The Virginian-Pilot 29 Mar. 2012.
35) William Beaumont Army Medical Center, e-mail to PETA, 26 Jul. 2011.
36) Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, “Procurement of Ferrets for Use in Teaching Protocols: PED-05-373 and PED-08-373,” n.d.
37) Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Survey of Animal Use Pediatrics Training,” 26 Mar. 2013.
38) The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs,” Determination for the Use of Animals in Medical Education and Training,” 15 May 2014.