PETA to Pentagon: Killing, Eating Snakes and Other Wildlife in Cobra Gold Risks New Pandemic

Amid Zoonotic Outbreak, PETA Urges Defense Secretary to Stop U.S. Marines From Eating Wild Animals in Grisly Training

For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


As the world battles a pandemic of a deadly disease that originated in animals killed for their flesh, PETA rushed an urgent letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper denouncing the reckless killing and consumption of animals during the annual Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand, which risks a “spillover” into humans of novel killer diseases.

During this year’s event, Marines and survival training instructors were recorded killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos, consuming live scorpions and tarantulas, and decapitating cobras and drinking their blood—even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “[a]pproximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.”

“In addition to fostering a culture of depravity, the irresponsible Cobra Gold drills put troops at risk of contracting dangerous zoonotic diseases that threaten the health of every human being on the planet,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is calling on the Department of Defense to learn from our current pandemic and replace this spectacle with more effective and ethical animal-free survival exercises.”

PETA notes that non-animal training options include virtual reality methods that survival experts use to train Air Force pilots, interactive video games with food procurement components, and instructional books and videos authored by specialists who have trained U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance Escape instructors.

In 2011, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center suspended its use of live animals in its survival training courses following discussions with PETA. And nearly three decades ago, the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground canceled a survival skills training course using animals after PETA asked then–Defense Secretary Les Aspin to intervene.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—also sent a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps calling for an end to the Cobra Gold animal drills. The group’s letter to Esper is available here.

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