Troops Deserve Better
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Our troops deserve the best training available. But in San Antonio and elsewhere, the U.S. Army uses live animals to teach combat medics even though superior, human-relevant methods are widely available. In these training courses, goats or pigs are stabbed, shot, burned, and have their limbs amputated with tree trimmers. If the animals survive these injuries, they are killed following the training session.
The Armed Forces use about 7,800 animals each year. But several parts of the military, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, are moving to replace animal use. It’s time the Army does the same.
Practicing on anesthetized goats and pigs—who differ from humans on many anatomical levels—poorly prepares medics to treat wounds in actual combat situations. However, human-based simulators and perfused human cadavers offer significantly improved anatomical realism and allow military personnel to receive hands-on training in medical procedures with the repetition necessary to master various skills. For example, devices like the human-worn “Cut Suit” by Strategic Operations, replicate human anatomy, featuring organs, breakable bones, and an artificial heart that pumps blood.
Today, the use of animals has been phased out of nearly all civilian trauma programs and at an increasing number of military training centers. In 2016, Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified before Congress that the Coast Guard had suspended live tissue training in part because he found it “abhorrent.” In addition, other combat trauma training programs in the Marines, Navy, and Air Force use only nonanimal methods. Further, in 2015, the use of live animals was ended for Advanced Trauma Life Support courses in all branches of the U.S. military.
With these developments, it couldn’t be clearer that the time is now for the Army to end live animal use for combat medic training—because our troops deserve better.