Ft. Sam Area Billboards Urge End to Live Animal Army Medical Training

Forget about three billboards around Ebbing Missouri, it's three billboards in San Antonio that are causing controversy today, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has erected the three billboards around Ft. Sam Houston, the Home of Military Medicine, urging the Department of Defense to drop its long standing practice of using goats and pigs to train military medics and physicians.

The billboards depict a goat eating grass with the words, "Goats make lousy soldiers. End animal use for militiary medical training.

"Dr. Robert DeMuth, a retired Major and Army surgeon, says using animals to train medical personnel who will be treating the battlefield wounds of soldiers is counter productive.  He says not only is the physiology of goats far different from that of humans, but there are far more reliable training methods for what the Army calls 'live tissue training.'

"In my experience in two deployment to Iraq as a physician, it is my opinion that the simulators actually provide better training than the animals," he said.

Dr. DeMuth says what is called 'cut suits' are available.  They allow humans to dress in a full outfit which includes breakable bones and artificial blood to 'provided a realistic training experience on a conscious 'casualty' comparable to what medics can expect to encounter in the field.

"I don't think the (animal) training is nearly as good and nearly as accurate as the training the soldiers are able to do on these models," he said.

In addition, the Physicians Committee, in a letter to Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Army Surgeon General. points out that simulators are usable again and again and can be stored on a shelf when not in use, and taken to the site of training when they are needed.

By contrast, the letter points out that goats and pigs need to be fed and looked after, can only be used once, and their carcasses have to be removed after they have been used.

Dr. DeMuth says the Pentagon's own studies show that use of goats and pigs is mor expensive and provides no advantage to the surgeons and field medics in training.

"There are several studies, one was done by the Navy, one by the Air Force, others done by Canada and Israel which show there is no superiority of the animal models to the simulators," he said.

A 2017 report indicated the Department of Defense used 8500 goats and pigs in military medical training in 2016.  The Army has said it is attempting to phase out the use of live animals for medical training, but wants to do that on its own schedule, and only when it is convinced that alternatives provide better, more realistic training for combat medics and surgeons. Ft. Sam Houston declined to provide further comment.

The billboards were partially paid for by actors Jamie Farr and Mike Farrell, best known for portraying members of the 4077th Army Surgical Unit in the seventies TV show 'M*A*S*H.'

"As a former member of the United States Army, I an dismayed that the trainign provided to military medical personnel has not kept up with the times," Farr said in a statement.  "Those serving our country deserve the best-trained medics we can produce."

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