A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?

Behind the scenes at secret laboratories

Animals in War

When Animals Are Drafted
For 5,000 years they’ve been fighting our wars with us

War Horses – the Engines of Battle
A brief timeline of “the supreme animals of war”

For Kittens of War, Marines are Heroes
Rescued from the firing, now living happily ever after

All Creatures Great and Small
Elephants and pigeons on the battlefield

When Soldiers Deploy
What happens to their pets?

The 80th Commando
The dog who went after Osama bin Laden

Animal Soldiers Go Hi-Tech
Dolphins and bats as conscripts in war

Battle Buddy Now Therapy Donkey
Smoke settles in at his new home in Nebraska

Warrior Dog Gets Stem Cell Therapy
Basco’s hip healed from arthritis

Animals, Conspiracies and ‘The Avengers’
Testing out our weapons of war

Should We Be Testing Weapons of War on Animals?
Behind the scenes at secret laboratories

Stray Dogs of War Take a Bow
A special appearance at a prestigious dog show

The Most Decorated Dog
Sgt. Stubby – a World War I hero

The Lion of Afghanistan
How the King of Beasts became a sacrificial victim in a world gone astray

A report in the British Daily Mail last year focused on how military scientists test bombs and bullets on pigs.

Why pigs? It’s simple: Many of their organs, including their skin, are closer to humans than most other animals. (That’s why they’re also used for heart transplants.)The story begins thus (Warning, it’s not for the faint of heart):

Anesthetized, but still very much alive, a pig lies on a raised platform in the middle of a field deep in the Wiltshire countryside.

Like a giant sausage roll, the animal has been wrapped in bullet-proof Kevlar sheeting to protect it from shrapnel. The blast wave from the explosion will, however, cause it internal injuries.These will be exacerbated by an operation that has already been performed on the animal that allows a third of its blood to be drained (mimicking a massive hemorrhage) and measured precisely.

For up to ten minutes following the blast, the pig will lie like this, untended. Then scientists will move in to stabilize the animal, measure the blood loss and check its responses to medical intervention.

In all, 18 pigs are blown up in this way. Some do die instantly as a result of the blast, while others will survive for as long as eight hours.

But, come the end of the experiment, all will be killed. No doubt, there are those who find it hard to believe animals continue to be used barbarically in this way in the name of science.

In the five years prior to this report, 119 live pigs had been blown up with explosives by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense. And 75,000 more animals of all kinds were used in other military experiments. In 2009, that included 96 pigs, 149 monkeys (a near three-fold increase on the previous year), 190 guinea pigs and more than 7,500 mice. The “procedures” included exposing guinea pigs to nerve agents and marmoset monkeys to anthrax.

Those numbers, of course, pale when compared to what goes on in the United States – where figures are harder for investigative journalists to track. Military tests on animals in the U.S. are classified as “top secret.” But in April 2009, USA Today reported that:

“Military researchers have dressed live pigs in body armor and strapped them into Humvee simulators that were then blown up with explosives to study the link between roadside bomb blasts and brain injury. . . . The next round of the testing is scheduled for later this year.”

“Wounding and killing animals are not the most effective ways to teach medics how to save human lives.” Rear Admiral Marion Balsam.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of primates, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, cats, and other animals are hurt and killed by the Department of Defense in experiments that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. (See, e.g., U.S. Department of Defense, The Department of Defense Animal Care and Use Programs Fiscal Year 2002-2003)

Not surprisingly, the British and U.S. governments argue that such experiments provide critical lessons in how to save lives in the event of a conventional or biological attack – not only on soldiers in the field, but also on the civilian population.

In December, 2009, Rep. Bob Filner (D. Calif.) introduced a bill that would replace animals with dummies. Commenting in the Washington Times, Jim Hanson, a former special-ops soldier, wrote:

The euphemistically named BEST Practices Act is anything but that. The best practice for a new combat medic is treating a living being. That is a harsh reality, but it is the truth. Currently, the military conducts what is called live-tissue training with goats and pigs.

The animals are anesthetized and then given wounds the medics and doctors are likely to see in combat, and the medics perform the appropriate procedures to treat them. The animals are not a perfect analogue to a human casualty, but they provide one thing no simulation or dummy can: the visceral reaction each medic must face when a life is in danger.

Not so, responded Rear Admiral Marion Balsam, a retired U.S. Navy physician:

Pigs’ and goats’ bodies are very different from those of humans … Wounding and killing animals are not the most effective ways to teach medics how to save human lives.

Researchers already have developed various simulators that accurately replicate human anatomy. … The military should end the use of animals for medical training and invest in these more modern approaches that provide the best training to care for our troops.