Former military doctors and veterans say they want the military to stop using animals during medical training. New technology makes it unnecessary they say. They addressed the issue during a briefing on Capitol Hill, organized by PETA.
There a lot of sides to this ongoing debate.
It's called live-tissue training. In the military, animals are put under anesthesia and then shot, stabbed or wounded to mimic war injuries on the battlefield.
For training purposes, military members then administer trauma care in the field before the animal is euthanized. Congressman Ted Lieu from San Diego says “To me it’s really barbaric we are having this kind of practice for some of our medics in the military." Lieu and other opponents, including PETA, say they believe the practice is inhumane, there are more modern, effective options available that don't use animals.
Lieu is co-sponsoring a bill which would eliminate the use of animals during military medical training exercises. It's called the Battlefield Excellence Through Superior Training, or Best Practices Act. Anahita Duha, a surgical resident at the Medical College of Wisconsin explains “…the best training, is not training on animal models is to buy the simulators we know are tried and trusted , train them properly, put the time and investment and effort so they are proficient."
Advocates of using animals in the training say it is essential to prepare troops on the front lines for the stress and medical emergencies associated with war. In November 2014, the U.S Department of Defense announced it was scaling back the use of live animals for medical training but didn't eliminate the practice completely. U.S. Army spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Fitzhugh says “The feedback we get from our medics was the animal patients provide them with very realistic training before they deploy and that is critical to our success in our mission."
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the U.S. military uses more than 8,500 animals every year in its combat trauma training courses. Lt. Fitzhugh adds, the U.S. Army says it has transitioned to using human simulators when possible, but the system hasn't been perfected, “Our concern that status simulation is just not ready yet ..simulators don’t replicate basic human anatomy. They are not capable of modeling human psychology, they are not capable of bleeding like we do"
The Best Practices Act was reintroduced to Congress last year. The House Armed Services Committee is now considering it.