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Pigs Killed in North Dakota Trauma Training Course

April was a cruel month for pigs. At North Dakota State University, live pigs were unlawfully killed after they were subjected to the trauma of confinement and experimentation. But you can end this unnecessary cruelty. Join PCRM in asking the university to end animal use in its Advanced Trauma Life Support course taught by instructors from MeritCare Hospital.

pigsOn April 15, PCRM sent a letter to the chair of the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) requesting that NDSU stop its use of animals in its trauma training course. In the letter, PCRM medical adviser John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., wrote that the Animal Welfare Act mandates the consideration of nonanimal alternatives when they can minimize pain.

But at NDSU, misleading and outdated evidence about alternative nonanimal technologies and animal-based training was used to justify animal use in the IACUC protocol for the course.

The 2006 protocol stressed the importance of animal use in this training by citing four articles published between 1989 and 1996—despite approval in 2001 by the American College of Surgeons, the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) oversight body, of nonanimal models like the TraumaMan System for these courses.

“The presentation of this outdated and misleading evidence points to a misunderstanding or disregard of the current standard for ATLS surgical skills training,” says Dr. Pippin. “And the initial and subsequent approvals of this protocol demonstrate a lack of adequate oversight by the NDSU IACUC.”

Earlier this year, PCRM filed a complaint against MeritCare—which provides instructors for the NDSU course—with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Region office. The complaint states, “We believe that this animal use is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act because there are equivalent alternative nonanimal technologies available.” After the complaint was filed, live pigs were still unlawfully killed.

So far this year, MeritCare and NDSU have heard from more than 10,000 people concerned about the school’s use of live pigs in the joint ATLS course. And the university’s continued use of pigs for the course also received press in Fargo’s The Forum newspaper and an Associated Press wire story that generated print and television coverage. But NDSU needs to hear from more concerned citizens.

More than 90 percent of United States and Canadian ATLS courses—including the program in North Dakota—have improved the quality of training by opting for human-based simulators and eliminating the use of animals. But in addition to NDSU, a handful of other ATLS courses continue to use and kill animals, including the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), in Galveston, Texas, which PCRM recently urged to stop using live goats in its ATLS course.

In a letter to The Galveston County Daily News, Dr. Pippin commented on UTMB’s use of animals. “The closest thing to real patients isn’t a goat; it’s the simulator specifically designed and approved for ATLS training,” said Dr. Pippin in the article.

“ATLS training is all about mastering crisis management and emergency skills to save human lives. When the crisis is ours or our child’s, do we want a doctor whose skills were learned on a goat or one who trained on state-of-the-art simulators?”

To find out how you can stop pigs from being killed in North Dakota, please visit Then join our Humane Trauma Training cause on Facebook.

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

PCRM Online, May 2009

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