SAN ANTONIO—Three billboards surrounding U.S. Army Medical Command and sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national nonprofit of more than 12,000 physicians, criticize the Army for using outdated medical training methods. The ads depict a goat in an Army combat uniform, chewing on blades of grass, and state “Goats make lousy soldiers. End animal use for military medical training. TroopsDeserveBetter.org.”
The U.S. Army continues to use animals for combat medic training, even though training methods specifically modeled after humans are widely available and accepted to be equivalent or superior to animal training methods, even within the military.
“There are significant anatomical and physiological differences between species, making human-relevant, nonanimal training the only reasonable track forward,” says physician and former Army Major Robert DeMuth. “Furthermore, modern training methods allow for immersive training experiences; actors can wear what’s called a ‘cut suit,’ which features breakable bones and artificial blood to provide a realistic training experience on a conscious ‘casualty,’ comparable to what medics can expect to encounter in the field.”
However, in Army combat medic training courses, goats or pigs are stabbed and burned and have their limbs amputated with tree trimmers. Animals that survive these injuries are killed after the training session. The Army refers to this activity as “live tissue training.”
The Physicians Committee submitted a letter to Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, M.D., Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, requesting that animals be replaced in Army combat medic training.
The idea is backed by actors Jamie Farr and Mike Farrell, United States veterans and stars from the classic television series M*A*S*H.
- “As a former member of the United States Army, I am dismayed that the training provided to military medical personnel has not kept up with the times. Those serving our country deserve the best-trained medics we can produce,” says Jamie Farr, who served in the U.S. Army.
- “In the years since we stopped filming ‘M*A*S*H,’ the U.S. military has upgraded its training, its tactics, even its uniforms. Why not modernize its medical training? Why continue to test train on live animals when modern medicine uses human-based simulation devices that get better results?” says Mike Farrell, who served as a U.S. Marine.
To speak with Dr. Robert DeMuth or for a copy of the billboard artwork, please contact Reina Pohl at RPohl@PCRM.org or 202-527-7326.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.