Pigs have long been used as stand-ins for humans when it comes to studying the effects of bombs and bullets. They’re very like humans – especially their skin and internal organs. And the “doctors” don’t have to worry about that pesky Hippocratic Oath – “to abstain from doing harm.”
In this latest practice session, 18 pigs were taken to a shooting range, where they were shot by Danish military marksmen, who were aiming at precise places on the pigs’ bodies. Then medics were given the OK to rush in and try to save them, covering them in blankets and carrying them on stretchers into ambulances that took them to a nearby hospital and into operating rooms where the surgeons took over.
Prior to the session, one of the surgeons was overheard laughing and saying, “We are going to do a lot of damage, hopefully to the pigs’ livers.”
As reported in the Daily Mail, the pigs survived for about two hours before being “euthanized”, after which their bodies were dumped at an animal waste site.
Professor Lars Bo Svendsen, one of the teachers, explained the Definitive Surgical and Trauma Care course (DSTC) thus:
“It was important to prevent the pigs losing too much blood. If pigs of that weight – about 110 pounds – lose more than three pints of blood, it is unlikely they will survive.
“The surgeons treated the damage to the pigs’ organs – heart and lungs, the liver, spleen, pancreas and large blood vessels in the abdomen. Surgery lasted for two hours. Pigs that survived surgery were then eliminated using heavy doses of barbiturates. There was a team of six who were treating each animal, including surgeons, anesthetists and assistants. This set-up replicates what happens at the British field hospital in Afghanistan.
“… Using pigs produces the closest possible similarity to what the surgeons experience in Afghanistan. In some European countries, the attitude of the animal protection organizations has become hostile. I am aware there is a big issue in Britain regarding the use of animals in medical training. I hope there is not a scandal about the DSTC.”
The director of the course, Jens Hillingsoe, said, “Using a pig makes the situation in the operating theatre more realistic because of the anatomical similarities between pigs and humans.”
Unfortunately, being like a human doesn’t lead to your being treated like a human.
Animal protection groups are asking why the session wasn’t conducted on lifelike dolls that “breathe and bleed” instead of animals.
But the British Ministry of Defense, which organized the operation in Denmark since this kind of vivisection is now illegal in the U.K., has insisted there was “no equally effective alternative.”
Well, one alternative would be for our species to find “effective alternatives” to killing and maiming each other and to treat other animals as “collateral damage” in our endlessly murderous adventures.
Other species have learned how to limit their aggression. Perhaps we should take a stab at that, too.