NORFOLK, Va. - The Coast Guard won't use as many live animals for its combat medical training after an animal rights group showed a goat's legs being removed with tree trimmers.
The agency said the video led to a review of its policies and the Coast Guard came to the decision that it could reduce by half the number of animals it uses. The Coast Guard said this week it can do that by only requiring personnel deploying in support of the Defense Department to train with them.
In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals obtained a video of the live tissue training that showed the goats as well as other traumas. The goats were intentionally injured so the students could treat injuries like those they might see while in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf, according to the Coast Guard. The training was held in Virginia Beach for Coast Guardsmen preparing to deploy to Iraq.
PETA was livid about how the animals were treated, saying in a letter to the Homeland Security Department that "nothing about the training session depicted in the video even gives the illusion of a battlefield casualty situation."
However, a report on a Coast Guard investigation released in May said the goats were subjected to traumas that simulated an improvised explosive device attack or enemy fire fight. Instructors inflicted injuries with a shotgun, pistol, ax and a scalpel.
The Coast Guard investigation found that its personnel did nothing wrong, but a contractor providing instruction was cited by the Agriculture Department for violating the Animal Welfare Act. The investigation said there were not enough instructors available to provide additional anesthesia to the goats at the same time. The goats were euthanized at the end of the training.
While the Coast Guard in its final report defended its practice of using the animals, it also said "the controversial nature" of live tissue training necessitated that it closely scrutinize its policies.
"The Coast Guard will continue to refine, reduce, and, when appropriate, replace the use of live animals in medical training," Carlos Diaz, a Washington-based Coast Guard spokesman, said in an email to The Associated Press. "We look forward to insights and input from other organizations as we continue to look for these opportunities."
PETA welcomed the news, although it said there's more that can still be done.
"The Coast Guard has taken a laudable first step by slashing in half the number of live animals who will be shot, stabbed, and mutilated in its training drills," PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman said in a written statement. "We continue to urge the Coast Guard to join the more than 80 percent of our NATO allies that have completely replaced their use of animals in medical training with superior simulation technology."