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Bill Requires End of Live Animal Use in Military Medical Training

The U.S. military is fighting two wars, so it’s essential that service members receive the best medical training available. A new bill recently introduced in Congress and language in a Defense Appropriations Bill report could move the military toward using human-based, state-of-the-art training methods—and phase out the inhumane use of live animals.

The Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training Practices Act, or BEST Practices Act, is a new bill introduced by Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Training with SimMan simulator; Monkey used in military trainingUnder the BEST Practices Act, H.R. 4269, the military’s use of live vervet monkeys to demonstrate the effects of a chemical weapons attack would be ended immediately. The use of live animals in combat trauma training would be phased out by 2013 and replaced by superior training methods, including the Army’s Combat Trauma Patient Simulator.

“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 PCRM cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. “The BEST Practices Act ensures that military medical training is technologically advanced and human-based.” 

Superior human-based methods, such as lifelike human patient simulators, full-immersion, simulated battlefield environments, and rotations in military and civilian trauma centers, are already widely used by both civilian and military trainers.

The BEST Practices Act states, “Human-based methods have been developed and validated for training responses to common battlefield injuries and chemical and biological agent attacks. Management of hemorrhage, sucking chest wounds, airway compromise, and many other combat trauma injuries can be taught using numerous medical simulators and partial task trainers.”

And just days after the BEST Practices Act was introduced, Congress included language in a Defense Appropriations Bill report that called for an investigation into the use of live animals for military medical training.

The report included language from Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., entitled “Report on the Use of Live Primates in Training Relating to Chemical and Biological Agents.” The language directs the secretary of defense to submit a report to Congress within 90 days that includes “an explanation as to why the use of primates in such training is more advantageous and realistic than the use of human simulators or other alternatives.”

Although this language is not included in the final bill, its inclusion in the report means that the Department of Defense will likely comply with the request.

The military’s trauma training courses subject more than 8,500 goats and pigs a year to severe injuries, including stab wounds, gunshot wounds, and amputations. 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.

To help ensure that H.R. 4269 becomes law, visit BetterMilitaryMedicine.org to find out how to take part in Citizen Lobbyist Week.



Debra Durham, Ph.D.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.


PCRM Online, January 2010

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