Officials at Fort Benning, Ga., are looking into a claim by an animal rights group that a medical training program at the base uses live animals that suffer limb amputations and invasive surgical procedures while they’re still alive.
Benning spokesman Richy Rosado told Military.com he learned only Tuesday afternoon of the complaint filed by the People for the Ethical of Animals.
“I have no knowledge of it. We’re still looking into it,” he said.
A whistleblower notified PETA of the training on Friday, according to a statement released Tuesday by the group.
Justin Goodman, associate director of laboratory investigations for PETA, said the complaints filed with Benning leadership and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are not the first the group has lodged over military medical training involving live animals.
“We’ve been confronting these courses for a long time,” he said.
Goodman said PETA does not yet know the contracting company providing the training at Fort Benning. There are many of them around the country, he said.
One company, Tier 1 Group of Arkansas, was cited earlier this year after a whistleblower covertly recorded video of its trainers cutting up live goats as part of a Coast Guard training program at Virginia Beach.
Goodman said the company was cited by the USDA for violations of the animal welfare act for not properly anesthetizing the animals.
The trainers used tree branch trimmers to amputate the legs of goats and cut them open to remove internal organs while the animals were alive, according to PETA. The group subsequently used some of the video as part of a public awareness campaign that features filmmaker Oliver Stone, a Vietnam veteran.
Stone says in the video that the U.S. military should have the best medical training, but that advances in life-like “human simulators” make the maiming of animals for training purposes unnecessary.
For PETA, the issue is not just about ensuring the animals are anesthetized. Goodman said PETA wants the live-animal trauma training ended entirely.
“At Fort Campbell [Kentucky], the Army’s School of Combat Medicine does not use” live animals. They say the simulators are better,” Goodman said. “The Navy Trauma Training Center in Southern California says the same thing.”
A bipartisan bill sponsored by 50 members of Congress would bar use of animals for such training, he said.
The bill would require that training be done using human-like simulators, Goodman said.
“Clearly, this is possible,” he said. “The technology exists.”