PCRM Confronts Army’s Chemical Weapons Exercises on Monkeys
The heart rate of monkey #2251-1 skyrocketed to well over 200 beats per minute as he stopped breathing and began to convulse violently. Veterinary technicians had given this vervet monkey a massive dose of a toxic drug to simulate a chemical weapons attack.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the Army uses live vervet monkeys in exercises meant to teach trainees how to treat patients exposed to nerve agents. Twenty more monkeys were recently shipped to Aberdeen, despite PCRM’s attempts to halt the delivery.
The monkeys were shipped from the island of St. Kitts to Miami and then shipped to Aberdeen in September. In August, PCRM filed a legal complaint asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halt the shipment and another complaint urging the Department of Defense to end the use of monkeys in chemical casualty courses.
PCRM’s complaints explained that Worldwide Primates, the company that imported the monkeys to Miami, had a long history of animal welfare violations. The company’s operator had even spent 13 months in jail for smuggling endangered orangutans. The complaints also stated that it is unlawful to import primates for use in training exercises that wound them with drugs toxic enough to simulate a chemical weapons attack.
“These chemical injections are extremely cruel—and they’re not a proper training method for military physicians,” says John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for PCRM. “Vervet monkeys cannot tell you they are nauseated or display other signs of a human exposed to nerve agents. The best training for coping with a chemical weapons attack involves human patient simulators and other high-tech methods.”
Monkeys at Aberdeen are used in these exercises as often as every 60 days and can be used for up to three years. A military chemical casualty training video that PCRM obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act shows a vervet monkey—monkey #I035—seizing violently after being given a toxic dose of physostigmine, a drug that simulates a nerve agent attack. Physostigmine can cause seizures, difficulty breathing, and sometimes death.
ONLINE> To take action and watch the video, go to PCRM.org/Army. (Warning: The video is graphic.)