US medic training on live pigs faces opposition
A US company that trains military medics in field operations using live pigs is trying to bring its courses to Germany. Animal rights group PETA believes the company is using US Army protection to bypass German animal protection laws.
Deployment Medicine International (DMI), which claims to be the biggest trainer of US military forces in operational medicine, is trying to introduce courses for US soldiers stationed in the eastern German state of Thuringia.
The company’s so-called “Trauma Training” courses allegedly involve live pigs being given broken bones, punctured organs, and bullet wounds under a general anaesthetic and then being operated on by trainees. The animals are then euthanized while still asleep. PETA has long campaigned against the practice in the United States.
However, Major Audrey Gboney-Leon, spokeswoman for the US Army in Europe, told The Local this week: "We are not currently conducting, nor do we plan to conduct, any such training in Germany."
DMI requested permission to carry out the experiments in Bavaria last year. “But the requests were denied by state veterinary offices,” said Christina Esch, a vet and PETA spokeswoman in Germany said.
The firm is now apparently looking for other possibilities in Thuringia, despite Germany’s animal protection laws. DMI has already had one request denied by the Thuringian consumer protection office, but is now appealing the decision in a regional administrative court.
DMI denies that its legal requests are being made at the behest of the US Army. According to the company’s lawyer, Annette Steuber, DMI trains doctors - including military medics – to carry out field operations in conflict regions that lack medical infrastructure.
She added the training was necessary because injuries from explosives and bullets are nothing like those sustained in civilian life, for instance in a traffic accident. “The case is currently being processed,” a court spokesman recently told the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper. “The administrative court in Gera is expecting to reach a verdict at the end of October.”
According to PETA, DMI is using the protection of the US Army to fight the ban by legal appeal. “Normally the ‘scene of the crime’ is in force on any property in Germany,” PETA scientific adviser Edmund Haferbeck told The Local. “But there are territorial exceptions for US army property. It’s a difficult legal area, but there are legal arguments that say German animal protection laws aren’t valid on US army property.”
PETA says DMI killed nearly 15,000 pigs between 2001 and 2010 during military training in the US. The animals rights group says the pigs have limbs removed, holes cut into their chests and limbs, blood vessels severed, and are stabbed in the heart.
The German army does not use live animals in military training, which was one of the reasons cited by the Bavarian court to deny the DMI request. “The Bundeswehr does not carry out any animal experiments,” a Bundeswehr officer was quoted in a PETA statement saying. “In training exercises, soldiers are trained with very good models, and animal experiments are not necessary.”
“Shooting, stabbing, and killing animals for trauma exercises is not only illegal in Germany, it only offers medics second-class training,” said Harald Ullmann of PETA. “A wounded soldier, whose life is hanging by a thread, is not going to get much comfort from the fact that the medic was trained on a pig.”