Military personnel demonstrate an advanced human-based training method called the Cut Suit during a Physicians Committee-organized Capitol Hill briefing.
Dear Physicians Committee supporter,
I have some good news to share. Even though there is still much work to be done, we are seeing progress. The U.S. military recently announced that it is removing the use of animals from several medical training programs effective Jan. 1, 2015. This long overdue change comes after years of pressure by the Physicians Committee, our members, and other organizations. Thank
you for helping us get to this point!
A recently released memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson, M.D., revealed that the transition away from animals will affect six different areas of medical training. These areas include Advanced Trauma Life Support courses and pediatrics residency programs, two areas that the Physicians Committee has long been addressing with the Department of Defense. Yet the military's decision to replace animal use in both of these training areas comes years after the medical community had, by widespread practice, recognized the superiority of nonanimal methods. Prior to Assistant Secretary Woodson's May 2014 memo, 98 percent of Advanced Trauma Life Support and pediatrics residency programs in the United States and Canada were exclusively using human-based methods like medical simulators.
But there is still much work to be done. The recent announcement does not go far enough. It fails to seriously address the most widespread and invasive use of animals in military medical education—combat trauma training courses. More than 8,500 pigs and goats are used in these
courses each year. In some of these courses, animals are shot, stabbed, and have their limbs amputated one by one. While the memo addresses some international combat trauma training conducted by the Department of Defense, it does not deal with the majority of the courses, which are conducted domestically.
There are better ways to teach military personnel how to respond to severe battlefield wounds. Numerous human-based training methods replicate human anatomy, and some feature flowing artificial blood, breakable bones, and internal organs that can be surgically repaired.
With you by our side, the Physicians Committee has made hard-won progress in this area. Our efforts included a partnership with members of Congress and medical and military experts to end the U.S. Army's use of monkeys in chemical warfare preparedness training. So we know change can happen.
We are continuing to work with members of the medical community and members of Congress to ensure that the Department of Defense builds on this recent progress.
We promise to keep you updated on our efforts. Thank you for supporting us in this lifesaving work.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Director of Academic Affairs