Congress Pushes Military to End Animal Use
A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would require the military to institute modern medical training methods in courses that currently subject thousands of animals to stab wounds, burns, and other injuries. PCRM medical experts recently joined military physicians, medical simulation experts, and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill to explain why the military should replace live animals in its medical training courses with ethical and educationally superior human-based methods.
At February’s briefing, Rep. Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, discussed his efforts to modernize military training by introducing the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act. This bill, H.R. 4269, would end the Department of Defense’s use of animals in combat trauma and chemical casualty care training courses.
Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., PCRM’s director of research policy, presented an overview of the military’s reliance on live animals for medical training. Lt. Col. William Morris, M.D. (ret.), chief of neurosurgery at MultiCare Health System, discussed his personal experiences with animal use in combat trauma training. Adam Levine, M.D., director of human simulation and director of residency training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Martin Eason, M.D., director of the Center for Experiential Learning at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, presented a hands-on medical simulation demonstration. The briefing was standing-room only.
Each year, the military’s trauma training courses subject more than 8,500 goats and pigs to severe injuries. In chemical casualty care courses, live vervet monkeys are given a toxic dose of the drug physostigmine, which can induce seizures, breathing difficulty, and death.
“Caring for wounded troops under fire requires quick thinking, and there is no time to translate from animal-based training to lifesaving care for your human patient,” says Dr. Ferdowsian. “The BEST Practices Act ensures that the military’s medical training meets 21st-century standards.”
The BEST Practices Act would require the military to use human-based medical simulators for chemical casualty care training to ensure that medical personnel receive effective training before deployment. The bill would also phase out the use of pigs and goats in combat trauma training courses.
The BEST Practices Act currently has 27 congressional co-sponsors.