US Military to Discontinue Use of Live Animals in Medical Training

Perusing the news through Google today I found a very optimistic article about the US military. The US Department of Justice will discontinue the use of live animals in medical training for troops commencing on January 1, 2015.

The decision came from the Pentagon after many outside critics complained of the scale of animal mistreatment occurring through military practices. These training practices included troops learning to administer anaesthesia, how to resuscitate an unconscious person etc.

I am personally really glad to hear this news. Most Western militaries have ceased this already and 22 of 28 of the US’ NATO allies have joined this bandwagon previously. It is unknown exactly how many animals will be saved once these training practices cease but given that it is a military as large as that of the US, it is likely to be in the thousands.

The proposed simulation dummy in use. Image via The Boston Globe
The proposed simulation dummy in use.
Image via The Boston Globe

Instead of live animals, simulation dummies will be used. These were created by a research team from Boston. These simulators are so much better for so many reasons. First of all, humans react differently than other species of animal so learning to resuscitate a pig will not mean you will be capable of resuscitating a person. Secondly, there is no need to put so many animals through this.

I do not know the conditions in which this occurs, that I will admit. But one can imagine these animals are fearful all the time. They are probably separated from their parents or offspring all the time. They live their lives in laboratories. This shouldn’t be the lives of these animals. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their lives unnecessarily for us, especially when we know these tests aren’t very effective training methods.

Unfortunately the US military will continue to use live animals on the battlefield. Apparently goats and pigs are great for testing new weapons and the exact damage they can do. Do I really need to point out the issues I have with this? It is bad enough these are animals who could spend their entire lives in laboratories or on a military base but to have their lives come to an end so traumatically is against everything I believe in. Even worse, what if it is not a clean end? What if they lay their critically damaged on the battlefield? I highly doubt they are rushed to a vet so I imagine they die in pain.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine estimate that 8,500 animals die every year in combat trauma training. That is 8,500 too many. It is said that human fatalities would rise if this was not carried out but I am sure other alternatives can be found. Thankfully the US military is looking for alternative methods to phase out all animal testing in the military but in 2014 I wish they would pick up the pace a bit. Lives are literally being lost.

All that said I am very happy with the steps being taken so far. The US military is cutting out live animal use in medical training. The European Union banned animal testing for cosmetics. Ireland is banning live animal circuses on public land one county at a time. While it may be going slow, things are going well for animal welfare.

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