What types of training involve animals?

In an attempt to teach its personnel to respond to emergency combat situations, the U.S. military uses live animals in combat trauma training. During this training, traumatic injuries are inflicted on the animals and then military personnel (including medics, corpsmen and Infantry) attempt to quickly perform patient-stabilizing procedures, such as maintaining an airway, addressing chest wounds, and establishing an IV line.

Live vervet monkeys were previously used in chemical casualty management training. Following pressure from U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R. Md.), concerned citizens and animal welfare groups (including The HSUS), the Army announced in October 2011 that live monkeys would be fully replaced by humane, non-animal alternatives in chemical warfare trainings no later than December 31, 2011. This ended the use of animals in all military chemical casualty management training. 

What happens to the animals?

In combat trauma training, live goats and pigs are intentionally stabbed, shot, burned, have their limbs amputated and/or have their bones broken. The animals are anesthetized before the procedures and euthanized following the training. 

Which animals are used?

Goats and pigs are frequently used in combat trauma training. Vervet monkeys were used in chemical casualty management training until December 31, 2011 when they were replaced with humane, non-animal alternatives. 

What laws and regulations address this?

Relevant laws and regulations include: 

The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966
Some mammals and birds used by the military for training or research are afforded the limited protection of the Animal Welfare Act, but the agency that enforces this Act—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—does not inspect federal facilities, including the military's facilities.

Public Law 101-555, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, FY 1991, Section 8019 (10 USC 2214) 
Prohibits the purchase or use of dogs, cats, or non-human primates for inflicting wounds from any type of weapon(s) in order to conduct training in surgical or other medical treatment procedures.

Department of Defense's Directive Number 3216.1 "Use of Laboratory Animals in Department of Defense Programs"  
This is the Department of Defense's own policy governing activities using animals. The regulations that implement this Directive are in Army Regulation 40-33, called "The Care and Use of Laboratory Animals in Department of Defense Programs".

Some of the key animal protection elements of Directive Number 3216.1 include:

  • A prohibition against the use of dogs, cats, non-human primates and marine mammals for 1) research conducted for developing biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons; 2) inflicting wounds with any type of weapon(s) to conduct training in surgical or other medical treatment procedures; 3) trauma life-support (ATLS) training.
  • Alternative methods to the use of animals must be considered and used if such alternatives produce scientifically valid or equivalent results to attain the research, education, training and testing objectives.

What are the alternatives?

Available alternatives for combat trauma training include sophisticated mannequins that simulate a living human body.

In civilian medical training, the vast majority of Advanced Trauma Life Support courses use simulators rather than animals. A report on Department of Defense Animal Care and Use Programs for fiscal years 2004–2005 reports that "the use of sophisticated computer simulators in advanced trauma and life support training has reduced or completely eliminated large animals such as sheep in some institutions."

Available simulators include:

  • Simulab TraumaMan
  • Medical Education Technologies, Inc. Human Patient Simulator
  • Laerdal Medical Simulation SimMan
  • Medical Education Technologies, Inc. Emergency Care Simulator
  • Medical Education Technologies, Inc. iStan

In 2001 the American College of Surgeons, which oversees Advanced Trauma Life Support courses, approved the use of Simulab's TraumaMan System simulator in teaching the courses.

Additional training alternatives include using human cadavers (also approved by the American College of Surgeons) or gaining clinical experience at emergency trauma centers in major metropolitan areas.

Live monkeys previously used in chemical casualty management training were replaced with humane, non-animal alternatives (high-fidelity simulators and moulage) on December 31, 2011. This ended the use of animals in all military chemical casualty management training.

Are non-animal alternatives effective?

Cutting edge simulators provide the opportunity for students and military personnel to gain familiarity and comfort with medical procedures through unlimited repetition. Given the differences between human and animal anatomy, the mannequins provide markedly improved anatomical and physiological realism when compared with live animals.

In addition, the long-term cost savings are substantial compared to the use and care of live animals.

Does the military conduct research experiments on animals?

The military also uses animals in many areas of research and testing, some of which are controversial. Examples include infectious diseases (such as Ebola), biological hazards, toxicology, medical chemical defense, medical biological defense, clinical medicine, clinical surgery, physical protection, graduate medical education and instruction.

They also use animals for experiments related to combat specifically. For example, in April 2009, USA Today reported that: "… military researchers have dressed live pigs in body armor and strapped them into Humvee simulators that were then blown up with explosives to study the link between roadside bomb blasts and brain injury."

For an 11-month period that ended in December 2008, researchers subjected pigs and rats to about 200 blasts, according to Pentagon documents and interviews. The explosions have ranged in intensity, wounding some of the animals and killing others.

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 Veterinary Schools

What types of veterinary training involve animals?

Animals used in veterinary medical training are often used in “terminal surgeries"— procedures in which healthy animals are used in surgical training and then killed rather than allowed to recover after surgery.

Which animals are used?

Dogs, mice, rats, and birds are the most commonly used species in veterinary training.

What are the alternatives?

More and more veterinary schools are using animals in the clinical setting to help train their students by spaying/neutering of cats and dogs from local shelters. This is a win-win-win situation for the school (which gains access to a low-cost source of animals for surgical training and whose image in the community is enhanced because they are providing a useful service), the shelter (which receives virtually free spay/neuter services), and the animals (who are more likely to be adopted is they are spayed or neutered). Another distinct advantage of this approach, as compared with performing terminal surgeries on animals, is that it gives students exposure to all phases of patient care, including postsurgical pain management.

Veterinary students also can also gain valuable surgical training in the operating room under the close supervision of an experienced surgical instructor/ practitioner. Here, the student mostly observes at first, performing relatively simple procedures like incision making and suturing; as competence and exposure develop, the student takes on more complex surgical tasks.

Other available training models include mannequins, computer models, virtual reality, and ethically sourced cadavers (animals that have died or been euthanized for medical or humane reasons and donated by the owner).

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Medical Schools, Advanced Medical Training and Sales Demonstrations

What other types of medical training involve animals?

Animals are used in education at medical schools, advanced medical training—such as Advanced Trauma Life Support courses—and in sales demonstrations.

What happens to the animals?

In medical schools, live animals are used in teaching labs for surgery, physiology and pharmacology classes. These labs can include anesthetizing the animal, injecting pharmaceuticals or practicing surgical techniques. After the class, the animal is killed. Fortunately, only a dozen of the nation's 125 accredited medical schools still use live animal labs.

In Advanced Trauma Life Support courses, dogs, pigs, goats and sheep are severely injured to teach participants how to treat and manage various traumatic injuries.

Recent examples of animals used in sales demonstrations include:

  • In 2007, a doctor deliberately induced a brain aneurysm in a live dog to demonstrate how a medical device worked. Several people watched and even tried their hand at the procedure, and then the dog was killed—all for a sales gimmick.
  • In 2008, a company that manufactures surgical tools planned a “Hands-On Pig Lab” to be held during a medical conference where live pigs were mutilated to allow the company’s salespeople to show off their new wares.

Which animals are used?

Dogs, pigs, goats and sheep are commonly used in medical training.

What are the alternatives?

Alternatives include human patient simulators, computerized mannequins, surgical and microsurgical training boards, perfusion models, laparoscopy simulators, and a wide range of computer platforms for learning anatomy, physiology (cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, etc.), and gastrointestinal and muscle function.

The most important alternative to animal labs in medical training is the clinical apprenticeship teaching paradigm. The student trains in the true patient setting, being gradually given more responsibility and involvement as student competency improves. This portion of medical training places the student in the real-life situations he/she will encounter as a professional practitioner.

Exposure to real surgery in the operating room theater is obviously a vital component of surgical training. Some medical schools send their students to local area hospitals and trauma centers, where they observe and study surgical procedures in the operating room. Observing operating room procedures helps medical students understand what it take s to apply medicine to real-world situations that help save and improve human lives.

Newly deceased patients could be used to teach resuscitation procedures, such as tracheal intubation. Postautopsy and prosected cadavers are a valuable resource for teaching surgical psychomotor skills and human anatomy.

Alternatives have also been developed for advanced training in medical specialties like advanced trauma life support, such as the TraumaMan System®.

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