The United States Coast Guard is halting the practice of injuring live animals for military medical training.
Spokeswoman Lisa Novak told the Associated Press on Thursday that “live tissue training,” meant to prepare medics for combat injuries they may encounter in the field, has been suspended since January. She said she didn’t know what prompted the suspension.
In an article for The Hill, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) writes that live tissue training previously involved sedated goats or pigs, which were shot or stabbed in order to mimic injuries humans could face in combat. Those animals would ultimately be “euthanized,” she wrote. Roybal-Allard, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, wrote that she had been working with the Coast Guard towards ending the practice.
The suspension will last for at least six months while the Coast Guard examines alternatives, like realistic human dummies, Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller told the Washington Post.
The Post notes that the U.S. military has used animals for medical training since the Vietnam War, and faced public backlash in 1983 over plans to shoot dozens of dogs suspended by mesh slings. Protests led to then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger issuing a ban on shooting dogs for training.
In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published a video showing a Coast Guard drill that appeared to show live goats being shot, stabbed and dismembered, the Post reports. The video showed the animals vocalizing and kicking while being injured, indicating they were “not adequately anesthetized and were likely feeling pain,” PETA said at the time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsequently cited the military contractor involved for “inadequately anesthetizing and monitoring the goats,” The Virginian-Pilot reported. PETA has applauded the recent suspension.
The Humane Society of the United States also praised the suspension, and encouraged the Coast Guard to make it a permanent change in a statement sent to HuffPost.
“The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the Coast Guard’s decision to suspend live animal trauma training and urges the agency to permanently replace the use of live animals with human-based simulators, which provide more realistic training opportunities without harming animals,” the group said.
Correction: A previous version of this article included a misspelling of Roybal-Allard’s last name.