The Ministry of Defence in the UK is sending surgeons serving in the UK armed forces on medical training courses in Denmark, part of which involve snipers firing on live pigs, not with a view to lethal kill, but with the intention of inflicting life threatening injuries to reflect wounds which might be encountered on the battlefield, reports the London Evening Standard
According to the Mail on Sunday
, battlefield surgeons boasted, 'We're going to damage a lot of pigs' livers' prior to the latest exercise code named Danish bacon which involved 18 healthy pigs being drugged, shot at close quarters then taken by stretcher to a simulated battlefield operating theatre where army medics treated the animals’ wounds as they might treat real soldiers in a conflict situation.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard
, a UK Ministry of Defence spokesman said,
"This training provides invaluable experience, exposing our surgical teams to the specific challenges posed by the injuries of modern armed conflict. This training has helped save lives on operations and by participating in the Danish exercises we minimise the overall number of animals used."
But the deliberate maiming of pigs for training purposes was roundly condemned by UK animal rights charity PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). The PETA website
highlighted that this practice would be illegal in the UK under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which does not permit the use of animals for trauma training.
PETA also pointed out that alternative means of such training exist. Lifelike human simulators can “breathe” and “bleed” in realistic battlefield scenarios and have been shown by military and civilian trauma teams to better prepare medics to treat battlefield injuries more effectively than animal laboratories. PETA also point out that more than three quarters of the UK’s NATO allies have said they do not use live animals for training in this way.
Mimi Bekhechi, associate director for PETA UK, speaking to the London Evening Standard, said,
"The overwhelming majority of the UK's NATO allies do not shoot, stab and dismember animals for their military training exercises. The Ministry of Defence's decision to ship out members of the armed forces for deadly and cruel exercises in Denmark - which would be illegal if conducted in the UK - is impossible to justify medically, ethically and educationally."
According to the Mail on Sunday, the 18 pigs used in the most recent tests had circles drawn on their underbellies before a three-man sniper team fired shots intended to damage organs but not kill. Army trainee surgeons would then treated the maimed pigs to replicate a battlefield situation.