The U.S. military kills more than 7,500 animals every year for “medical training.” Thanks to petitions from Care2 and the work of many other activists, the federal government the Department of Defense (DOD) will have to stop.
The National Defense Reauthorization Act requires DOD to “report to Congress by March 1, 2013, on a strategy, including a detailed timeline, for replacing the use of animals with human-based methods,” reports the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which has been advocating on this issue.
PCRM, an organization of doctors, opposes using non-human animals in military medical training as ineffective and poor education. “Ensuring that trauma education and training are most effective for treating human injuries requires phasing in a combination of human-based training methods,” PCRM argues.
Instead, the military is currently doing things like cutting off live goats’ legs one by one to cause severe hemorrhaging. This “does not prepare trainees for treating complex human injuries,” according to expert Richard McLellan. An Army veteran and emergency medicine specialist who has taught and practiced trauma care for over 20 years, McLellan writes in U-T San Diego that on a battlefield, medical personnel must know human anatomy. There is no time to mentally translate from animal anatomy to figure out where to cut or put a tourniquet on a person.
McLellan knows of “no objective evidence that animal-based training is the best way to save lives in combat.” In any case, he reports that “state-of-the-art simulators based on human anatomy provide far superior training, compared with attempting to treat wounded animals.”
McLellan argues that civilian trauma training is more advanced than military training. “The crude practice of cutting into animals for training has given way to…impressive human-centered methods. Ninety-eight percent of surveyed civilian Advanced Trauma Life Support courses in the United States now exclusively use simulators.”
Those simulators of human patients are very effective. McLellan describes one of them:
One particularly impressive simulator is the hyperrealistic Cut Suit, specifically designed for combat trauma training. A live human “patient” wears the suit to allow trainees to perform lifesaving procedures while interacting with a human. It is used to show trainees how to control hemorrhage, treat wounds, place tourniquets and intervene in the case of a collapsed lung. It has warm, artificial blood pumping through the suit, reusable organs, and replaceable tissue. A screaming, writhing “casualty” makes for a far more realistic experience than an anesthetized animal. The Cut Suit is easily transported to a battlefield simulation where weather, topography, visibility and live fire can be varied.
This harmless and realistic technology provides better combat medical training than animals, and spares them pointless agony. The Humane Society of the United States reports that “live goats and pigs are intentionally stabbed, shot, burned, have their limbs amputated and/or have their bones broken.” At least the “animals are anesthetized before the procedures.” Afterwards the military kills them.
There is no evidence that using live animals in military medical training is better than using human simulation technology. There is no reason to torture and kill live animals when better alternatives exist. That is what civilian medical trainers have decided. It is wonderful news and a huge victory that the military will have to graduate from cruel and outdated methods to humane and superior technology.
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