Apparently, the U.S. Army doesn't know Fort Carson is using animals in training

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So this is an interesting note in PETA's long-running war against the military's use of Live Tissue Training (LTT): Apparently, Fort Carson used it last year and the U.S. Army is completely unaware of it.

For those of you who are unschooled, LTT is a way of training soldiers and military medical personnel. Basically, animals — usually goats or pigs — are severely injured (the animals are required to be anesthetized first), then the trainee tries to stop the bleeding and treat the wound. It's long been used because, among other things, it's thought to mimic the stress of the battlefield. But it hasn't always been used properly — PETA has a pretty gruesome video of one such occurrence — and PETA has argued that studies have shown that using simulators actually is a better training tool, eliciting similar stress responses and (this is key) allowing the trainee to work on something with human anatomy. The Department of Defense recently strictly limited the use of LTT.

I wrote about the issue here and here.

So anyway, last week, PETA's director of laboratory investigations, Justin Goodman, wrote me an email saying that he had sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense asking for information on any LTT exercises done at Fort Carson in 2014. The U.S. Army Medical Command responded by saying there weren't any exercises. He sent along a copy of the response, most of which I'll reproduce for you here:

5 January 2015

Freedom of Information/
Privacy Act Office (Case 15-00313)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Attention: Shalin G. Gala
501 Front Street
Norfolk, VA 23510

Dear Mr. Gala,

This letter responds to your request for agency records documenting the total number of animals used by Fort Carson related to live tissue training, combat casualty training and/or trauma training from January 1, 2014 to present which was submitted to the Installation Management Command at Fort Carson.

Record search results were forwarded to this office from Fort Carson along with your request letter. These were received on 12 December 2014 and processed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 United States Code (U.S.C.) § 552.

After personnel at Fort Carson made a good faith effort and conducting a thorough search of records using methods which can reasonably be expected to produce the information, no records responsive to your request were located. No animals were used by at Fort Carson for any live tissue training, combat casualty training and/or trauma training.

[...]

Sincerely,

Paul D. Kercher
Freedom of Information/
Privacy Act Office
U.S. Army Medical Command

Problem is, there actually was an LTT exercise at Fort Carson in 2014. I asked Fort Carson's spokesperson about it and she quickly sent me the following information from Fort Carson officials:

"Live tissue training was conducted in late September by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team at Fort Carson. All training conducted is in accordance with established protocols and all applicable federal laws, to include the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 with changes in 1970 and amendments in 1976,1985, and 1990. Protocols for use of animals in training are reviewed, approved and supervised by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee(IACUC) as required by law."
Whoops.

As expected, Goodman is pretty ticked off about the situation. He wrote this response to me:

Its outrageous and violates DOD policy for Fort Carson to still stab, shoot, dismember and kill animals in training drills when more effective human simulators are available and recognized as superior by the military itself. Other than brave whistleblowers, the only way the public is able to gain some transparency and accountability about these archaic and secretive exercises is through the use of open records laws and its troubling that Fort Carson is unable or unwilling to comply with a simple Freedom of Information Act request on the subject. 

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