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7 February 1999 Issue

725 Reasons Why You Don't Want to Be an Animal in a Military Lab

Pentagon Experiments Under Investigation
BY STEVEN RAGLAND

The $435 hammers and $640 toilet seats bought by the U.S. military in the 1980s
were nothing. The Department of Defense now spends $200 million a year on
experiments using hundreds of thousands of animals, often with no more than the
vaguest scientific rationale. By all appearances, some Department of Defense
programs have become little more than checking accounts for ivory tower research.

In 1992 and again in 1994, PCRM doctors testified before congress on military
animal use and worked with the General Accounting Office (GAO) in its
investigation of Michael Carey's experiments at Louisiana State University. Carey
had shot 700 restrained cats in the head to "model" human injuries. As a result of
the investigation, Carey's cat-shooting experiments were halted. Other labs in
which animals were shot for training purposes discontinued these practices, two
laboratories were forced to improve their animal care standards, and a computer
tracking system was set up to monitor animal use.

The military's new tracking system now lists 725 military experiments using
animals, exposed to light for the first time. Some are patently unnecessary:
military experimenters use pigs to experiment with laser tattoo removal and use
rats, pigeons, and squirrel monkeys to study drug abuse. Other experiments,
particularly biological and chemical weapons tests, are among the most gruesome
experiments imaginable. The GAO is again investigating military animal use, and
PCRM has prepared a series of reports on the experiments and rallied experts to
critique them. We have found scores of military tests that kill animals and serve
no realistic military purpose.

Biological and Chemical Weapons

The U.S. is a signatory to the international Biological Weapons Convention, which
prohibits the use of any biological agent and requires that all stockpiles be
destroyed or diverted to peaceful purposes. But biological weapons tests on
animals continue. Military experimenters are infecting monkeys with the smallpox
virus in order to work toward "a safer, more immunogenic cell culture-derived
vaccine" despite the fact that such vaccines can be developed and tested without
animals. Brucellosis, anthrax, dengue fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis,
equine infectious anemia, and the filoviruses ebola and marburg are being tested
in other military experiments.

These experiments are not only controversial because of the animal abuse
involved. While they may appear to serve a defensive purpose, vaccine research
may be intended to find ways to allow the use of chemical agents in combat or to
circumvent defenses, according to some critics.

Such tests are as misleading as they are cruel. Animals often respond to
chemical agents and antidotes differently than humans. A rat's respiratory system
differs greatly from that of a human, and rats are more susceptible to toxins
because they are unable to vomit. Mice have a genetic tendency to develop lung
tumors, rendering much of the research on physiological effects of exposure
invalid. Regarding skin tests, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
report said, "Since laboratory animals have fur and do not have sweat glands on
most of their body, they do not provide optimal models for dermal exposure."

Mustard gas, first used in World War I, continues to be a favorite agent for
Department of Defense animal experimenters. Yet good treatments are already
available and are easy to use. Military personnel receive a "Mark I Kit" with two
self-injectable antidotes to the gas: atropine, which counteracts the effects, and
pralidoxime chloride, which binds the nerve agent so it can be cleared from the
body. Preventative drugs, such as benactyzine, oximes, aprophen, and
physostigmine, are also commonly used. Little about these treatments has
changed in the last 35 years, yet military experimenters continue to receive
hundreds of thousands of dollars for animal tests with the agent.

Marjorie Cramer, M.D., a plastic surgeon and Fellow of the American
College of Surgeons, says, "The use of pigs to study tattoo removal in
humans makes very little sense. Given that tattoo removal is a cosmetic
problem that is already being studied widely in humans, it is difficult to
justify this research in animals."

Training Programs Need Reform

Medical training is one of the largest areas of animal use in the military. Animals
are used for practicing basic trauma skills and surgery, and even in basic medical
school physiology and pharmacology demonstrations.

Replacing these labs is not difficult. For every animal use in training, an alternative
is readily available that is both cheaper and more effective. High-quality training
mannequins and simulators, computer software, interactive videodiscs, and human
cadavers are used throughout civilian training programs and offer significant
educational advantages.

For example, to teach infant incubation -- inserting a tube down the throat with the
aid of a metal stylus -- one military lab uses ferrets, another uses cats, and yet
another uses sheep, none of whom is, in fact, a close model for humans. In adult
incubation training, instructors have used primates, ferrets, and pigs. This basic
trauma care procedure is performed daily in emergency rooms. It is learned using
simulator mannequins and cadavers. Animals are not typically used in civilian
incubation training, yet military programs continue to use animals despite obvious
anatomical differences. Mannequins are anatomically exact, inexpensive, and can
be used again and again to maintain skills over weeks and months.

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the military medical
school in Bethesda, Maryland, is the only U.S. medical school that still forces
students to participate in live animal laboratories, despite complaints from the
House Armed Services Committee and the American Medical Student Association.

PCRM is providing research, reports, and expert opinions to the General
Accounting Office, and is pushing for alternatives as aggressively as possible.

Here is how you can help.
Mail this letter to your congressional representative.

Dear Representative,

As a resident of your district, I'm asking you to push for an end to the use of
animals in all military experiments and training. The Department of Defense
spends nearly $200,000,000 a year on animal experiments even though cheaper
and preferred training methods are already in place in medical schools and
advanced trauma centers and far superior non-animal research methods are
available. The military's history of fiscal irresponsibility speaks for itself, but the
use of animals in experiments must be stopped now.

Sincerely,
Signature
Name (please print)
Address, City, State, ZIP

 

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