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Update (July 26, 2023): PETA sent off a letter today urging the newly appointed Canadian Minister of National Defence Bill Blair to immediately end that country’s use of animals in military training drills. The letter specifically targets the Canadian Department of National Defence’s live agent training for chemical casualty care and live tissue training for traumatic injury management and urges a full transition to human-relevant, animal-free training methods.
Decades of exposing live pigs to toxic chemical warfare agents and subjecting them to gunshot wounds, blast injuries, and other forms of trauma during archaic military drills must end. The body count is substantial: Over 1,800 intelligent pigs have been killed in trauma and chemical warfare training by Canada’s armed forces, costing an outrageous $1 million since 2012. Maiming animals fails to adequately prepare military personnel for real-life medical emergencies facing humans, and hyper-realistic human-patient simulators have proved to be more effective. Numerous precedents exist for banning this abhorrent use of animals immediately. More than 70% of NATO allied nations use no animals for military medical education. The U.S. Coast Guard banned “abhorrent” trauma training drills on animals after discussions with PETA, and the U.S. Army ended its use of monkeys in chemical casualty drills after facing a PETA campaign. Minister Blair has a chance to start his new tenure on the right foot, and we urge him to move the Department of National Defence into the 21st century by replacing crude military drills on animals with advanced, human-relevant technology that will help protect the lives of humans and other animals. —Shalin Gala, Vice President of International Laboratory Methods, PETA
Please take action below to join us in urging Blair to do the right thing for animals and military personnel.
Update (January 10, 2023): A piece on an investigation into the Canadian military’s use of live pigs as stand-ins for wounded troops in medical field training published on January 6 in the Toronto Star reveals horrific new details about the suffering inflicted on the animals as well as a disturbing and concerted effort by officials to hide it from the public.
According to the Star, pigs used in these barbaric training sessions endure “‘life threatening wounding,’ ‘facial lacerations’ and ‘sucking chest wounds’ after being stabbed by ‘objects for impalement.’ And chemical warfare agents trigger symptoms including seizures, ‘scissoring of the jaw or grinding of the teeth,’ irregular heart rhythms, fluid ‘accumulating in the airway’ and a lack of oxygen that will ‘cause the skin to change color.’”
The Star reports that the documents show that a sedated pig suddenly began screaming and that “another attempted to jump off the table,” indicating inadequate anesthesia.
The Canadian military is so aware how bloody the training sessions are—and what the public would think of them—that it urges participants to keep a code of silence, cribbed from the 1999 movie Fight Club: “‘[T]he first rule’ of the training model is to not talk about the training model,” say internal documents the Animal Alliance of Canada obtained and shared with the Star. Furthermore, the supplier of the pigs “must have a ‘media plan’ and prepare a ‘cover story,’” according to the newspaper’s review of the internal documents.
Canadian military officials also know these exercises are pointless. They offer “little benefit” to the trainees, per internal documents the Star reviewed.
“The Canadian Department of National Defence has been dragging its feet for years by continuing to mutilate and poison live animals in barbaric drills.” —Shalin Gala, PETA Vice President, International Laboratory Methods
Take action below to help stop the Canadian military’s maiming and poisoning of pigs.
Each year, members of the Canadian military travel to Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield, Alberta, to participate in a cruel “live-agent training” drill, in which live pigs are exposed to toxic chemical weapons such as sarin and mustard agents. Pigs subjected to this crude exercise experience seizures, an irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and bleeding and can even die.
Instead of tormenting animals, other military and civilian training programs around the world now use modern non-animal methods such as lifelike human patient simulators, which—unlike crude procedures on pigs—can be programmed to mimic the human response to a chemical-weapon attack.
In 2011, following a PETA campaign, the U.S. Army replaced the use of animals in its chemical warfare training program, stating that its switch to superior human simulators "was made possible by improved technology, the development of alternative training methods, shifting chemical threat environments, and changes in the medical competencies required of first responders during a chemical incident." Similarly, doctors working with the Israel Defense Forces have developed an effective chemical-attack preparedness course that uses only sophisticated human simulators, noting, "An animal laboratory session is viewed as unacceptable."
The Canadian military’s continued use of animals for trauma training, also known as “live-tissue training,” in which live pigs are used as stand-ins for battlefield-injured troops, is equally objectionable and useless. Pigs’ anatomy and physiology differ drastically from humans’, making the mutilation of these animals irrelevant to human medicine.
Globally, live-tissue training is the exception, not the rule. In 2017 the U.S. Coast Guard, following a PETA eyewitness investigation and extensive discussions with us, ended what the agency’s leader at the time called “abhorrent” trauma training on animals in favor of advanced human-simulation technology. Our work with Congress has reduced the American military’s use of animals for these drills by an estimated 95%.
A landmark study published by PETA and military medical experts in the journal Military Medicine found that more than 70% of NATO member states don’t use animals in their military medical training. Canada is one of just seven member states that cling to this barbaric practice.
Because valid simulators exist and are being used worldwide, the Canadian military’s practice of maiming and poisoning pigs—in addition to being extremely cruel and ineffective—clearly violates Canadian animal welfare guidelines requiring that alternatives to the use of animals be employed when available. In 2013 we filed a complaint with Robert Nicholson, the Canadian defense minister at the time, calling on the agency to end the use of animals for live-agent training and live-tissue training.
Please help spare pigs suffering in archaic and cruel trauma and chemical-casualty training by sending polite e-mails to Canadian military officials urging them to take immediate action to replace their use with superior, non-animal training methods.