Nonanimal Training Methods U.S. Military Could Be Using
An Animal Rights Article from


Physicians Committee
August 2009

Because widely validated and accepted nonanimal alternatives for chemical casualty care and combat trauma training courses exist, there is no justification for the use of live animals for these training purposes.

This use of animals in military medical courses constitutes a violation of the Department of Defense’s own joint regulation on animal welfare, which states that alternatives must be considered and used if available and also explicitly prohibits inflicting wounds on nonhuman primates.

Because widely validated and accepted nonanimal alternatives for chemical casualty care and combat trauma training courses exist, there is no justification for the use of live animals for these training purposes.

Chemical Casualty Care Training

Superior nonanimal, human-based training methods exist that could immediately replace the use of vervet monkeys in the U.S. Army’s “Chemical Casualty Resuscitation Practical Exercise.”

  • Researchers with the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps and Israel’s Carmel Medical Center have developed a nonanimal training curriculum for the medical management of patients exposed to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The course includes lectures, simulation training, and the use of moulage, in which actors with applied makeup mimic the symptoms of chemical warfare casualties.
  • John Pawlowski, M.D., Ph.D., director of anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, has organized numerous scenarios that simulate mass casualty incidents and nerve gas attacks. These scenarios use human patient simulators, which mimic human responses to biological and nerve agents—including physostigmine—and moulage. Similar models are used at medical centers across the United States to prepare personnel for mass casualty incidents in the case of a terrorist attack.

Combat Trauma Training

At least three different approaches to combat trauma training are necessary because different types of skills and levels of knowledge are required of three distinct groups. In each case, nonanimal training methods could replace the use of goats, pigs, and other animals.

  • Physicians and Physician Assistants: The most important elements of combat trauma training for physicians and physician assistants are realism, human-specific injuries and treatments, volume of trauma exposure, and team building. The ideal trauma and casualty training method is exposure to real injuries in humans, such as that provided by the participation of U.S. military medical teams at high-volume trauma centers. The Army Trauma Training Center has been described as providing “exposure to a high volume of traumatic injuries that closely mimic those seen on the battlefield.” In addition, the Air Force’s Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (C-STARS) program exemplifies how effective trauma training can be achieved by combined use of simulators, human cadavers, and civilian trauma centers. At centers in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, C-STARS courses teach chest tube insertion using simulators, fasciotomy using cadavers, and a number of other procedures using live human patients who enter trauma centers with severe injuries.
  • Medics and Corpsmen: The re-creation of battlefield scenarios remains an integral element to the training of medics and corpsmen. The ideal training paradigm for medics and corpsmen combines simulation tools, immersive simulated environments, and civilian trauma center training. The use of live animals is inferior to simulation for specific skills training and inferior to trauma centers for human-specific training similar to the battlefield experience. The U.S. Army’s own Combat Trauma Patient Simulator has been described as “simulating, replicating, and assessing battlefield injuries by type and category such as hemorrhaging, fractures, amputations, and burns; monitoring the movement of casualties on the battlefield; capturing the time of patient diagnosis and treatment; comparing interventions and outcomes ateach military healthcare service delivery level.”
  • Infantry: In the absence of a medic or corpsman, an infantryman’s job is to control hemorrhaging, stabilize soldiers who have sustained injuries, and generally render care at the scene of the injury—likely while still under hostile fire. Optimal first responder training for infantry includes the use of simulators such as Laerdal’s SimMan, CHI Systems’ HapMed limb simulator, and/or other simulators. These human anatomy-appropriate teaching methods can be used in conjunction with simulation of austere battlefield environments.

Take action: Ask Your Congressperson to Co-sign Rep. Hank Johnson’s Letter to the Army to End Military Animal Testing.

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