Congress has ordered the Pentagon to draw up a plan to phase out the use of animals in combat medical training – or, as the military calls it, “live tissue training.” (Sounds like how parents teach their children to blow their nose.) Sounds good. But will the Pentagon actually comply?
“Live tissue training” is mainly conducted on pigs and goats. It used to be done on dogs, too. According to the Washington Post :
The military’s use of animals for medical training dates back to the Vietnam war, but it drew relatively little scrutiny until the summer of 1983, when activists caught wind of a training exercise planned at a facility in Bethesda. The plan to shoot dozens of anesthetized dogs strung on nylon mesh slings in an indoor, sound-proof firing range enraged animal activists and some lawmakers.
Dog lovers protested and then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger banned experimentation on dogs, but not on goats or pigs.
The Post reports that the new requirement is tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, but that it doesn’t altogether bring an end to these experiments. No Congressional act is without its loopholes, and the Army has just issued a $5 million contract bid for goats to use at combat medic training facilities across the country over the next five years.
The discussion over the use of laboratory animals in training doctors for war is full irony:
“The use of live animals in medical training teaches warfighters to save lives on the battlefield,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jennifer D. Elzea said in a statement. “Comprehensive combat medic training is vitally important because the medic is the first responder who provides treatment to an injured service member or civilian.”
If you want to save lives, the best way of doing it is not to send young men and women into war zones. But if you can’t resist going to war, then at least leave goats, pigs and other animals out of it. It’s only we humans who are at war with humans from other countries. American goats and pigs aren’t at war with pigs and goats half way round the world.