Should animals be used as military test subjects?

By Kathy Guillermo,
Director of Laboratory Investigations, PETA

Recent news coverage of a flag-draped coffin holding the body of a soldier killed in action was a tragic reminder that American men and women face death daily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Defense is increasing the danger by using animals in trauma experiments. These studies are cruel, ineffective and wasteful. They should be ended immediately.

In the tests, the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency puts body armor on live pigs, straps them inside Humvee simulators — and then blows them up, purportedly to test the effectiveness of the armor. It’s just the latest scandal involving body armor. Last year, the Army’s inspector general found that the Pentagon failed to ensure that $3 billion in body armor met the required standards of effectiveness. In January, the inspector general revealed that at least 16,000 sets of body armor weren’t even tested to make sure they were bulletproof and had to be returned. Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, the military has been criticized for failing to provide all soldiers with armor.

The military apparently can’t afford to issue every soldier risking his or her life with body armor that is manufactured properly, but it squanders time and money killing animals in experiments that won’t even yield relevant information because the subjects aren’t human. And this is another tragedy in this story: No amount of wishful thinking will turn pigs into realistic stand-ins for humans. Our physiologies are too different. The Department of Defense knows this already. A previous experiment involving a hemorrhage treatment called QuikClot showed a 100 percent survival rate in pigs, but was completely ineffective in the field and resulted in the tragic deaths of soldiers, according to a report issued by the Marine Corps Systems Command Liaison Team in Central Iraq.

The military’s insistence on using animals is made even more inexplicable by the availability of more effective non-animal methods. The Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., has developed a simulation of traumatic brain injury caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grenades. The computer simulation models the blast wave of the explosion using information gathered from mannequins studded with sensors. The data collected is directly relevant to humans — and doesn’t harm animals.

So, why does one arm of the military develop and use cutting edge science while another relies on ineffective, decades-old methods?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been asking the same question about the D.O.D.’s methods for training medics to treat traumatic injury and chemical weapons casualties in the field. In these exercises, live pigs are shot, stabbed and burned; the legs of live goats are cut off with garden shears; live monkeys are poisoned with harmful chemicals. PETA found out about this butchery when military medics called us to say they were being forced to take part against their will.

While PETA opposes the use of animals for ethical reasons, many combat and civilian trauma surgeons oppose it because animals are very poor models for people. These experts recommend the use of the incredibly sophisticated simulators now available – models with pulses and blood pressure, who bleed, respond to treatment or even “die.” Some military bases already used these simulators and some rotate their medics through civilian trauma center hospitals where they can get real experience with their own species. Other bases inexplicably continue to kill animals.

It’s not right to turn animals into war casualties under any circumstance. But when doing so is a disservice to our troops, who deserve the best protection and treatment modern technology and medicine can provide, it’s difficult to understand how the military justifies it. Every one of us has the right to ask Congress and the President to order an end to shooting, stabbing and blowing up animals and instead ensure the very best and most humane trauma research and treatment that our country can provide.

*** Kathy Guillermo is Director of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; ***

We reported and YOU decided! Here are some of the comments we received from readers.

Comment 1:

I really love that you gave PETA the opportunity to tell the animals’ side of the story. It is my belief that the DoD should end all blast research and trauma training exercises on animals. I really don't understand why these horrible tests are allowed anyway. It's a no brainer to me.

Adrienne Merlino

Comment 2:

I don't generally tend to agree with PETA, but it does make sense - these military contracts for overpaid security guards also apply to pig breeders already swimming in government subsidies. If they can use crash-test dummies for millions of cars, then why can't this stringent testing apply to body armor? I mean, they don't hire veterinarians to treat soldiers (except the canine ones) so I think this is a reasonable request that is not doing our military any favors.

Regina Butler

Comment 3:

I can't BELIEVE the military is actually strapping pigs into body armor and rolling them out into the desert in Humvees to "test" the armor. I sure wouldn't trust any doctor who had only practice on pigs to operate on me, and I wouldn't trust a body armor that had only been tested that way, either. Why can't we get into the 21st Century?

Lindsay Rajt

Comment 4:

Thank you, FoxNews, for your coverage of this story. I was sickened when I initially heard about the military's use of pigs in blast tests. I wondered how it could be that a nation that could put a man on the moon couldn't figure out a better way to test body armor than blowing up a bunch of defenseless animals (who last I checked are not at war with America). Kathy Guillermo's article addressed this question - there are better ways to test armor and a whole lot of other things. Now, it seems, the military just needs the political will to adopt the modern non-animal methods that will save animals and soldiers.

Grace Friedrich

Comment 5:

Thank you for lending your voice to animals by printing a recent PETA
op-ed. Military testing on animals leads to the tragic deaths of both
animals and soldiers, as tests on animals are completely archaic and
ineffective. Every species has its own unique physiology, and the results
of animal tests cannot be accurately extrapolated to humans. These test
must be ended for the sake of the animals and our soldier. They all
deserve better!

Alicia Woempner

Comment 6:

This is in response to Kathy Guillermo’s piece on whether animals should be used as military test subjects. I would like to thank you for allowing PETA to tell the animals’ side of the story.

I am in support of Ms. Guillermo’s position. The Department of Defense should end all blast research and trauma training exercises on animals immediately! Not only are they cruel for animals, but they are ineffective.

If we truly want to support our brave servicemen and women, we should ensure that they have the best, state-of-the-art training and technology available. And that means we should provide them with sophisticated human simulators, not cruel and outdated animal tests.

Kate Brindle

Comment 7:

No, the military has no business using animals in tests. The tests are archaic, cruel, and outdated. Let them use my taxpayer money to do something that doesn't involve abusing and killing animals. The military bases should be ashamed with with actions and all should stop immediately.

David Salisbury

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