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PETA keeps pressure on training

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is still leaning on the Department of Defense to end the practice known as "live tissue training" — and it appears to be making some progress.

LTT involves the use of live, anesthetized animals to train military personnel in first aid and medical procedures. We first wrote about it in January 2013 ("Can't stop the bleating," News), when PETA released a video that showed U.S. Coast Guard personnel cutting live goats with hedge trimmers as the animals moaned. That outraged lawmakers, who added a requirement to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that the military set a timeline by March 2013 to largely phase out the use of live animals in such exercises. The DOD had already ordered in 2010 that simulators be considered for such training if they were found to produce equivalent results.

At the time, Fort Carson was planning an LTT exercise, saying the benefits were immeasurable and that it used animals humanely. PETA has long insisted that life-like human simulators are just as effective, if not more so. Some officials at Carson stood by the practice, saying animals were cheaper and that simulators couldn't replicate the stress of working on live animals.

On Aug. 25, PETA sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel noting that the results are coming back from $20 million worth of DOD-ordered studies on LTT. A University of Minnesota study found that medics learning hemorrhage control got the same quality of training on simulators. Another study, at the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan, found medical staff who were taught pediatric intubation on simulators were more proficient than those trained on cats.

"The studies confirm what PETA has been saying for decades," PETA laboratory investigations director Justin Goodman tells the Indy.

In July 2013, the Army forbade non-medical personnel from using LTT, meaning other soldiers must receive training on simulators, mannequins, cadavers or "moulaged actors." Asked if the new rule had affected Carson, officials sent a statement saying that no current LTT exercises were being performed, and "any future plans of continuing the training is a decision of the Department of the Army."

In a statement, DOD spokesperson Jennifer Elzea said the rule in question only applied to "Regular Army units," but it did limit LTT among other changes. However, she noted, "Data on the number of training exercises at a particular location is not collected."

Goodman forwarded a February email from an official confirming that the Coast Guard has changed its LTT policy in a way that's expected to reduce such trainings by more than 50 percent.

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