Monkeys Poisoned, Goats Maimed in Gruesome Military Training
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer calls it a growing controversy. Last month, The Situation Room aired military videos obtained by PCRM through the Freedom of Information Act that reveal the unlawful use of live animals for medical training. But Congress and PCRM are asking the military to switch from these inhumane exercises to nonanimal teaching methods.
The Situation Room’s coverage of PCRM’s campaign to improve military medicine also included an interview with Charles J. Rosciam, M.H.A., a retired captain with the U.S. Navy’s Medical Service Corps. A companion piece was published on CNN.com.
“You can … say it’s not torture, it’s not cruelty ... I don't know of any other word when the end result is that these animals are suffering,” said Capt. Rosciam, a Purple Heart recipient who risked his life to save fallen Marines during the Vietnam War.
The two military training videos reveal this unlawful use of live monkeys in chemical casualty care courses at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and live goats in combat trauma training courses at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and other military facilities.
In one video, a vervet monkey is given a toxic dose of the drug physostigmine. This simulates the effects of a nerve agent attack. Seizures, diarrhea, and death can result. In another video, an instructor cuts a live goat with a scalpel. This creates traumatic wounds that cause severe bleeding.
Last month, Rep. Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to the secretary and surgeon general of the Army. Rep. Johnson called for an end to the use of live animals in military medical training.
Johnson wrote, “We acknowledge the vital importance of preparing medical personnel with the most educationally effective training methods, and we also are prepared to facilitate a full transition away from the use of animals for the purposes of training.” He also asked other members of Congress to cosign the letter.
His letter followed Capitol Hill briefings earlier in the month. In the House and Senate, Capt. Rosciam, medical simulation experts, and civilian trauma center leaders joined PCRM experts in calling on Congress to end the military’s unnecessary use of animals. They asked that military medical training move to superior nonanimal training methods such as the increased use of medical simulators and embedding military medical personnel in hospitals that see high numbers of trauma cases.
During the briefings, Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., PCRM’s director of research policy, presented an overview of the military’s reliance on live animals to train soldiers and corpsmen. Capt. Rosciam and others also discussed their personal experiences with combat trauma training and opportunities for reform.
“Because animals have significant anatomical and physiological differences from humans, training soldiers on goats and monkeys can cost the lives of America’s fighting men and women,” said Capt. Rosciam. “On the battlefield, a casualty may die in the time it takes a medic to translate the lifesaving techniques they have learned on an animal to a human victim.”
The same day, 17 former military doctors and medics joined PCRM to file a Petition for Enforcement with the Army surgeon general and other military medical leaders. The petition seeks to halt the inhumane practices that violate Department of Defense animal welfare regulations.
“Battlefield medics and others caring for our troops should receive training that is state-of-the-art and human-centered,” says Dr. Ferdowsian. “Training with goats and monkeys is inhumane and offers an inferior educational experience. Treating a goat with an artificially created wound is very different from caring for a human casualty.”
These practices continue despite the existence of superior nonanimal training methods. So PCRM is asking the military to follow the civilian medical community’s lead and move away from animal-based training to human-based methods that simulate human anatomy and injuries.
Visit BetterMilitaryMedicine.org to watch the training videos and learn more about improving military medical training.
Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H.
PCRM Online, July 2009