Despite opposition by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Army is moving forward with its plan to shoot live pigs and treat their gunshot wounds in a medical trauma exercise Friday at Schofield Barracks for soldiers headed to Iraq.
Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said the training is being conducted under a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and the careful supervision of veterinarians and a military Animal Care and Use Committee.
“It’s to teach Army personnel how to manage critically injured patients within the first few hours of their injury,” Cheng said. The soldiers are learning emergency lifesaving skills needed on the battlefield when there are no medics, doctors or facility nearby, he said. PETA, however, said there are more advanced and humane options available, including high-tech human simulators.
In a letter, PETA urged the Army to end all use of animals, “as the overwhelming majority of North American medical schools have already done.” “Shooting and maiming pigs is outdated as Civil War rifles,” said Kathy Guillermo, director of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department.
The Norfolk, Va.-based group demanded the exercise be halted after it was notified by a “distraught” soldier from the unit, who disclosed a plan to shoot the animals with M4 carbines and M16 rifles.
Cheng said the exercise is conducted in a controlled environment with the pigs anesthetized the entire time. He had “no doubt whatsoever” in the effectiveness of the instruction, which he called the best option available at the base.
“Those alternative methods just can’t replicate what the troops are going to face when we use live-tissue training,” he said. “What we’re doing is unique to what the soldiers are going to actually experience.”
Cheng didn’t have details about the number of pigs, how they were acquired or the weapons involved in the training.
“We understand (PETA’s) concerns and point of view. At the same, the Army is committed to providing the soldiers with the best training possible,” Cheng said.
The pigs are anesthetized therefore the pain should be minimized. However, according to P.E.T.A.’s Shalin Gala,
“The pigs will be released in a field and shot by high powered M-16A2 and M4 rifles…They are being shot while fully conscious and they’re fully aware of the pain”
This dispute aside (although if they’re experiencing pain, have we really left the Dark Ages?), we do know that suffering in its other forms – distress, frustration, and other psychological manifestations - will not be neutralized by medication. Each individual pig will be conscious of this experience.
PETA is urging the Army to use advanced human simulators like those seen at the University of Hawaii Medical School. The University of Hawaii Medical School told KITV that U.S Navy medics have used its robot patients for training in the past. The Army responded by arguing that simulators are not adequate to the task. (It’s okay for a Navy medic though, who also deals with in-the-field trauma and battle conditions?)
I don’t know whether or not these alternatives are sound; however, it’s reasonable to believe that given the necessary impetus adequate alternatives would be created. As Francione has argued,
if a mechanic uses the same gloves everyday and finds success, how are we to know whether it is the gloves themselves that allow for this success, as opposed to the mechanic himself (or some other tool), unless this same mechanic either does a job glove-free or with a different brand perhaps?
As we are talking about sensitive creatures, individual animals that experience the world in which they live, we ought to - morally speaking – see if it’s the “gloves” that allow for a successful test. Why shouldn’t we?
Medical schools once said they couldn’t do without the torture of animals; today, the world over sees “animal models” going by the wayside (although not all of them have been enlightened). The Army simply needs a reason to look for an alternative – as opposed to relying on past methods because it’s easier and cheaper.
Let’s predicate this impetus for action on what justice requires of moral people - on what I believe to be the core of the animal rights movement and our commonly held system of ethical constraints: Jeremy Bentham wrote,
“…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…”
“What else is it that should trace the insuperable line” between those whose interests count and those whose interests do not? Species membership perhaps? Why not race? How about gender? Left-handed or right-handed? or any other arbitrary grouping that just so happens to include the people defining the group. Just push impartiality and full reasonableness (therefore morality) to the side.
Take action on this issue here.
Crossposted @ That Vegan Girl