U.S. Navy Must Sink Sickening Deep Dive Tests on Animals, PETA Says

For Immediate Release:
September 1, 2022

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


Today, PETA sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to halt the use of agonizing decompression sickness/illness (DCS/DCI) and oxygen toxicity experiments that the Navy is conducting on sheep and other animals whose spinal cords are injured in simulated dives. Retired Rear Admiral Marion J. Balsam and PETA have also appealed to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, pointing out that the Navy’s recent such tests—which PETA previously shut down back in 2010 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison but which have since resumed there and at other locations, with funding from the Navy—cause animals excruciating pain and can and should be done without using them.

During one recent test involving Navy experimenters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; Naval Medical Center San Diego; and Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, sheep were locked in high-pressure chambers, a petrifying experience, and exposed to significant atmospheric pressure—equivalent to what a diver would experience at 257 feet below sea level—and left in that state for 31 minutes. The animals were then forced to decompress, during which they endured “severe DCS,” crippling “joint pains,” “bloating” treated by stomach “puncture,” and “cardiovascular collapse” or “spinal cord injury” causing “distress or paralysis” that frequently resulted in death. This cumulative reaction is commonly referred to as “the bends,” in which bubbles of nitrogen gas form in the blood, muscles, and organs, including the brain. The sheep were then injected with an experimental oxygen-carrying substance that failed to reduce mortality, before being killed and dissected.

“The U.S. Navy is literally squeezing the life out of sheep and other animals in crude and painful decompression tests that only serve to leave the U.S. further behind the rest of the world,” says PETA Vice President Shalin Gala. “PETA is calling on Secretary of Defense Austin to switch to superior, human-relevant research instead of sinking money and animals’ lives into archaic tests.”

PETA has launched a public campaign to ban these tests, which both the French navy and the U.K. Ministry of Defence ended long ago. In its letter, PETA points to many non-animal research methods, including in vitro studies, reanalysis of existing human diver data, machine-learning techniques, and modeling.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.


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