PETA to U.S. Military: Ban Using Live Animals in Survival Training

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Update: February 17, 2021
PETA has filed a petition for rulemaking with the U.S. Department of Defense, urging it to begin regulatory proceedings to eliminate the cruel bloodlust killing of animals in the annual Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand. In the petition, we provide numerous animal-free options for the purported survival training and point out that the killing and consumption of wild animals—some of whom are initially alive as they are being eaten—in Cobra Gold poses a dangerous zoonotic disease threat akin to the novel coronavirus. Please add your voice to ours by taking action below.

Original post:
U.S. troops were recently caught on video proudly drinking blood from beheaded cobras and chomping on the live bodies of other animals while other service members feverishly cheered them on in what was more reminiscent of a frat party gone wrong than a military training drill.

The gruesome scenes were part of the Cobra Gold 2020 military exercise—the largest joint multinational military exercise in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region. Thousands of U.S. troops, including Marines, participated in the 39th annual event, held in Thailand, ostensibly to learn how to survive when trapped in a jungle.

As captured on troops' cell phones, the "most prestigious branch of the armed forces," according to Gallup polls, displayed the behavior of a grisly carnival-like sideshow as frenzied Marines killed chickens with their bare hands, gutted live geckos and ate them, chomped on live tarantulas and scorpions, and cut open cobras and drank their blood.

“It’s not easy to find snakes in the jungle to kill for food. Snakes don’t show up so easily …. They keep themselves hidden and will move only when they see their prey. . . . All kinds of raw blood and meat are risky. You never know what contagions they have .… So what’s in the snake blood?”
—Nattaphol Suangam, a Thai snake catcher and former soldier who relocates snakes found in neighborhoods to jungle habitats, as quoted in The Straits Times

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns, "Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals." The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in unprecedented changes to global households, economies, hospitals, education, research, and daily life. It is simply not worth the risk of another pandemic to continue business as usual. Considering the danger that zoonotic diseases pose to the troops—and indeed to all humanity—it is imperative that military leaders end the use of live animals in Cobra Gold and instead use more effective and ethical, non-animal training methods.

PETA fired off a letter to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger as well as one to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, urging them to end the use of live animals during Cobra Gold training, just as individual U.S. military installations have previously done in separate survival skills exercises.

In 2011, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California suspended its use of live animals in its survival training courses following discussions with PETA. Before that, the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah canceled a survival skills training course using animals after PETA appealed to then–Defense Secretary Les Aspin to intervene.

There's an abundance of survival training options that don't harm any animals:

  • In the book Primitive Wilderness Skills, Applied & Advanced, the authors—both U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) instructors—explain how to obtain food in nature.
  • Gretchen Cordy, a former Air Force survival instructor who appeared on the CBS show Survivor, hosts an instructional wilderness survival video series titled Prepared to Survive.
  • SERE specialists are already using virtual reality to prepare U.S. Air Force pilots for worst-case scenarios.
  • Interactive video games that have food-procurement components abound.
“Plants don’t run away and plants don’t bite. The last thing you want to do is to put yourself in any kind of danger. So hunting snakes would be a really, really silly idea. I’ve been (in Thailand) for 28 years and I go into jungles all the time. I’ve seen maybe two or three cobras in 28 years. So when they are doing their Cobra Gold thing, they are bringing the animals to sacrifice.”
—Dave Williams, who teaches jungle survival courses in Thailand, as quoted in The Straits Times

And of course, jungles have no lack of … wait for it fruits and edible plants that just might be employed to keep a person alive! In fact, a tweet posted by a Marine expeditionary unit stated that fruits and vegetables are "commonly found throughout the jungle" during the Cobra Gold training, which means that there is no need to kill animals and drink their blood in survival exercises.

Please TAKE ACTION BELOW and join PETA in calling on the U.S. and Thai militaries to stop using live animals in the Cobra Gold survival training exercises.

After Taking Action Below, Please Visit Our Action Center to Do More

Gen. David H.
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps
Honorable Gen.
Prayut Chan-o-cha
Minister of Defence Thailand

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