Military Testing: The Unseen War
News reports tell us the casualties of war, and monuments are erected to honor fallen soldiers, but the nonhuman victims of war—the animals who are shot, burned, poisoned, and otherwise tormented in military experiments and training exercises—are never recognized, nor is their suffering widely publicized.
Military experiments on animals can be painful, repetitive, costly, and unreliable, and published experiments and internal documents obtained from the armed forces reveal that U.S. military agencies test all manner of weaponry on animals, from bombs to biological, chemical, and nuclear agents.
Animals Tormented for Military Training
For decades, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has studied the effects of ballistics on animals (in so-called “wound labs”) as a method of training medics and soldiers to treat traumatic injuries. Because of pressure from PETA, Congress prohibited the use of dogs and cats in these training exercises in the 1980s.1
However, the DOD continues to conduct trauma and chemical-casualty training exercises in which thousands of animals each year are critically injured and used as “stand-ins” for wounded soldiers. A member of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps told The New York Times that instructors “shot [a pig] twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire.”2 In 2008, the San Antonio Express-News described a trauma course in which the legs of 990 living goats were broken and then amputated with a scissor-like tree-trimming tool.3
Animals who are used in such training exercises are also often forced to suffer through hellish conditions during transport, some dying en route because of filthy conditions and a lack of veterinary care. In 2008, several pigs died on cargo ships during the 2,000-mile, five-day trip from California to Hawaii. The pigs, who had been locked in crowded, barren containers, were thrown overboard.4
Tormented in Tests
Each year, hundreds of thousands of primates, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, cats, and other animals are hurt and killed by the DOD in laboratory experiments that rank among the most painful experiments conducted in this country, at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars.5
The following is a sample of the wide variety of cruel, unnecessary tests that are conducted on animals:
- To test the effectiveness of body armor, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency “dressed live pigs in body armor and strapped them into Humvee simulators that were then blown up with explosives.”6
- At Walter Reed Army Institute, rats were forced to breathe high concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO)—which is already known to cause severe health problems and death in humans—until they died, simply because “manifestations of a brief exposure to elevated levels of CO have not been fully described.”7
- Anesthetized pigs at Lackland Air Force Base had their throats cut and were bled to the point of shock. After the animals had spent 45 minutes with a dangerously low blood pressure, researchers attempted to resuscitate them. Those who survived the initial experiment were killed within five days so that researchers could study the effects of shock treatment on the animals’ organs and blood.8
- In a similar experiment conducted by the Army, rats who were fully awake and had not been administered painkillers were allowed to bleed for more than 15 minutes before they were resuscitated. Then they either died or were killed within 24 hours.9
Other military experiments include exposing animals to jet fuel, weightlessness, drugs, alcohol, and smoke. Tests are even conducted on insects and snakes in an effort to learn how to mimic their sensory perception abilities and apply them toward weapon detection.
Animals on the Battlefield
Animals have been thrown onto human battlefields for centuries. The U.S. military most commonly uses dogs: About 1,450 canines are reportedly “deployed wherever there are U.S. military troops,” according to Master Sgt. Joseph Lawson at Lackland Air Force Base.10,11
At least a dozen dolphins are known to have died since 1965 in accidents or from illness while they were being used by the military.12
Chickens were used in Kuwait as early detectors for chemical and biological weapons. In one instance, 43 birds died not in the “line of duty” but because they overheated in the desert sun.13
The Navy’s testing of sonar systems has been linked to the beaching and deaths of marine mammals. Thirty dolphins died in South Florida and 39 whales perished in North Carolina following separate sonar tests in 2005.14 Sonar is believed to disrupt marine-mammal communication and navigation systems. When they are confused, the animals surface too quickly, which may cause rapid decompression and a sickness similar to “the bends” in humans.
The Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act have come under attack by the military, which has lobbied to amend the language in the laws because, according to one trade magazine, “[E]nvironmental regulations are interfering with combat training.” Officials have asked that they not be required to designate “critical habitats” for wildlife on military lands and that terms such as “annoyance” and “potential to disturb” be dropped from the Marine Mammal Protection Act.15
Section 5b of the DOD’s animal welfare regulation states, “Alternative methods to the use of animals must be considered and used if such alternatives produce scientifically valid or equivalent results to attain the research, education, training, and testing objectives.”16 Valid alternatives to the use of animals—methods that military medical experts have found to better prepare soldiers to treat their fallen comrades—are indeed available. They include cadaver-based training, rotations in civilian trauma centers, and life-like human-patient simulators that breathe and bleed.
Unlike mutilating and killing animals, training on simulators allows medics and soldiers to practice on accurate models of human anatomy and repeat vital procedures until all trainees are confident and proficient. Studies show that medical-care providers who learn trauma treatment using simulators are better prepared to treat injured patients than are those who are trained using animals.17,18,19,20,21
What You Can Do
Please contact officials at the DOD Office of the Inspector General (IG) and politely urge them to require that the DOD follow its own regulations and replace the use of animals in trauma and chemical-casualty training exercises with ethically and scientifically superior alternatives. You can send an automated e-mail by visiting this website. You can also call the IG hotline at 1-800-424-9098 or write to the IG directly at the address below:
The Honorable Gordon S. Heddell
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Dr.
Arlington, VA 22202-4704
Ask your congressional representatives to urge the DOD to implement alternatives to animal experiments.
Please contact President Barack Obama and request an immediate end to U.S. military experiments on animals:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
1The Associated Press, “Reprieve From Wound Tests Is Ended for Pigs and Goats,” 24 Jan. 1984.
2C. Chivers, “Tending a Fallen Marine, With Skill, Prayer, and Fury,” The New York Times 2 Nov. 2006.
3S. Christenson, “Goats Die So GIs Have a Chance at Living,” San Antonio Express-News 3 Aug. 2008.
4G. Kakesako, “Pig Deaths Spur USDA Investigation,” Star Bulletin 11 Dec. 2008.
5U.S. Department of Defense, The Department of Defense Animal Care and Use Programs, Fiscal Year 2002–2003.
6T. Brook, “Military Used Pigs in Blasts to Test Armor,” USA Today 6 Apr. 2009.
7Z. Gu et al., “Consequences of Brief Exposure to High Concentrations of Carbon Monoxide in Conscious Rats,” Inhalation Toxicology 17 (2005): 755–64.
8C. Fitzpatrick et al., “Prolonged Low-Volume Resuscitation With HBOC-201 in a Large-Animal Survival Model of Controlled Hemorrhage,” Journal of Trauma 59 (2005): 281–3.
9M. Handrigan, “Choice of Fluid Influences Outcome in Prolonged Hypotensive Resuscitation After Hemorrhage in Awake Rats,” Shock 23 (2004): 337–43.
10A. Cukan, “Animal Tales: Military Dogs,” United Press International, 4 Apr. 2003.
11A. Gorman, “The Navy’s Underwater Allies; Trained Dolphins Are Detecting Mines in Iraqi Shipping Lanes, Clearing the Way for Humanitarian Aid. It’s a Game to Them,” Los Angeles Times 16 Apr. 2003.
12C. Squatriglia, “Dolphins Hunt for Mines in Gulf Waters,” San Francisco Chronicle 27 Mar. 2003.
13B. Daley, “Recruits Mine-Sweeping Dolphins and Bomb-Sniffing Bees Are Among the Latest to Be Drafted Into Military Service,” The Boston Globe 1 Apr. 2003.
14R. Sadler et al., “Hi-Tech Military Sonar Systems ‘Are Killing Britain’s Whales and Dolphins,'” Independent on Sunday 19 Jun. 2005.
15H. Kennedy, “Military Training Gets Break From Environmental Rules,” National Defense Aug. 2003.
16Departments of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, “The Care and Use of Laboratory Animals in DOD Programs,” 16 Feb. 2005.
17E. Block et al., “Use of a Human Patient Simulator for the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course,” The American Surgeon (2002) 68.7: 648–51.
18A. Pandya et al., “The Role of TraumaMan in the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course,” Canadian Journal of Surgery (2009) 52 (Suppl.): S3–S19.
19P. Sahdev, “Comment on: ‘Comparison of Manikin Models vs. Live Sheep in ‘Can’t Intubate Can’t Ventilate’ Training,'” Anaesthesia 6 Apr. 2010.
20E. Ritter et al., “Simulation for Trauma and Combat Casualty Care,” Minimally Invasive Therapy 14 (2005): 224–34.
21U.S. Medicine Institute for Health Studies, “Computers, Robots, and Cyberspace: Maximizing the Cutting Edge,” 3 Dec. 2002.