STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Army Europe’s plans to conduct medical training on live animals is on hold after German state government officials ruled that the surgical exercises violate host nation animal protection laws.
The U.S. Army maintains that working on live animal tissue provides soldiers with the best predeployment training to prevent death by massive hemorrhages. But government officials in the German state of Bavaria disagreed. After consulting with medical doctors, the ministry of interior from the district of Oberfalz concluded that effective alternatives to animals are available.
However, USAREUR said it remains committed to bringing the live animal training — which is mandatory for deploying U.S.-based Army brigades — to the military’s Joint Multinational Training Command facilities in Grafenwöhr.
“The U.S. Army continues to work with the appropriate host nation officials regarding our desire to conduct combat trauma training in Germany,” USAREUR said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Our commitment is to provide the best possible training in order to save people, including Afghans and our NATO allies, who are wounded or injured.”
USAREUR officials said they will continue to negotiate with the German government, but declined to describe how that process is expected to unfold.
Oberpfalz government spokesman Joseph Karl said the U.S. Army earlier this year asked a German company to manage the animal testing program. As part of the process, that company had to receive government permission.
But that company pulled out of the project under pressure from local animal rights activists. Another company stepped forward, but in late July Oberpfalz officials determined that using animals for medical training violated a German law that prohibits the use of animals for testing or training when suitable alternatives are available, Karl said.
In 2007, the Army’s then-surgeon general told Congress that “live tissue best simulates the challenges and stress inherent in stopping actual bleeding.”
The live-tissue training has not been done in Europe. It would supplement more traditional teaching methods, which use humans wearing special effects gear to simulate real injuries.
While USAREUR continues to work with German authorities, Europe-based medics could potentially be sent to the U.S. to get the live animal training.
“While we are confident we will be able to conduct the training here, of course we will consider all options,” USAREUR spokeswoman Carolyn Jackson said in the statement.
According to USAREUR, all animals, such as pigs and goats, used in combat trauma training are monitored by veterinary staff to ensure that appropriate anesthesia and analgesia prevent them from experiencing pain or distress, according to USAREUR. The animals are anesthetized before any procedures are carried out and remain unconscious the entire time.
Instructors inflict wounds to the animals using surgical instruments and when the training is complete the animals are euthanized without ever regaining consciousness, according to USAREUR.
Still, the method has outraged animal rights activists.
“(The) denial of the U.S. Army’s attempt to maim and kill animals in training exercises should be a wake-up call for the U.S. military,” Kathy Guillermo, PETA vice president of laboratory investigations, said in a statement released Friday.