I'm an Air Force Reserve staff sergeant and medical technician, and when I tell people—service members and civilians alike—that I also work to stop the military's stabbing, shooting, blowing up and killing of live animals in archaic medical training drills, they often ask whether these things really still happen and wonder aloud, "What kind of people would do that?" 

A newly released PETA investigation that’s prompted the banning of a military contractor offers some disturbing answers. 


Video footage, eyewitness testimony and related documents reveal the shocking abuse of animals, along with racism, homophobia, sexual harassment and the reported physical and sexual abuse of service members in courses led by military contractor Deployment Medicine International (DMI). DMI is the self-proclaimed "largest trainer of US military forces in operational medicine throughout [the] world." In recent years, DMI has used more than 14,000 pigs in its cruel courses and received more than 200 federal contracts worth nearly $10 million. 

PETA's new case documents a DMI course attended by members of the Navy and Air Force as well as civilians in a remote wooded area during which traumatic injuries were inflicted on live pigs. 

The video shows DMI instructors slashing pigs' bodies, severing arteries and causing massive bleeding. One pig was shot in the face and had his jaw blown off. Another pig had his chest carved open, his ribs broken and pried apart and pieces of his lung as well as his entire heart cut out for a crude "show and tell" exercise. During the violent exhibition, heartless instructors and students made callous comments, including "Cool. Vivisection," and joked about being inspired by TV serial killer Dexter. After DMI violently impaled pigs with projectile-like objects, an instructor cheerily told students that the pigs had "tripped in a sex shop" and needed treatment.  

The witness documented that at least one pig who was cut open showed signs of being inadequately sedated, including by kicking. 

The abuse we uncovered wasn't limited to animals.

A sadistic DMI instructor told students that using Muslims "would be even better" than using pigs for the training. DMI's president jokingly showed students a photograph of a symbol that depicted male homosexual sex with a red line drawn through it to indicate that it was not permitted. Staff made inappropriate sexual remarks throughout the course. 

This course apparently isn't an anomaly. As news outlets around the world have been reporting, a damning Virginia Board of Medicine complaint shows that the agency recently suspended the medical license of DMI's owner and president—a retired lieutenant colonel and a former Federal Bureau of Investigation medical chief—for alleged sexual assault and other physical abuse of service members during courses during the same time period as PETA's investigation. 

The complaint states that DMI's president apparently performed an inappropriate rectal exam on a student and then instructed the student to perform a videotaped penis and rectal exam on him. It also states that he manipulated and photographed a drunk student's penis, conducted unapproved experiments on students that involved drugging them and getting them inebriated, and had students cut each other open. 

Furthermore, he apparently retaliated against a female student who was critical of animal use by intentionally withholding the guidance that she needed in order to perform a painful procedure correctly on a student's penis. 

The board concluded that the behavior of DMI's president is a "substantial danger to the public health or safety." And we know that this misconduct extends far beyond him at DMI and even to other contractors. A 2012 PETA exposé showed another training company and Coast Guard students joking about dismembering goats with tree trimmers—while they were doing it.  

The abuse of animals in the video is as senseless as the apparent abuse of humans.  

An Air Force surgeon wrote recently that "[w]e have entered into an age where artificial simulator models are at least equivalent to, if not superior to, animal models. … [T]he military should make the move away from all animal simulation when effective equivalent artificial simulators exist for a specific task. For emergency procedures, this day has arrived." This is why Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Ore.) have introduced the common-sense Battlefield Excellence Through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, which would replace animal laboratories with simulation that DOD researchers agree is effective. 

I never used any animals in my military training. Nearly 80 percent of our NATO allies do not use them, either. And the contractor in question, DMI, has repeatedly been denied permission to conduct its courses overseas because superior simulators exist. 

Tormenting animals is an inferior and crude way to teach human medicine, and it creates a noxious environment that fosters callousness and abuse. These violent trauma drills can and must be replaced with modern and humane curricula. Soldiers and animals deserve better.

Kennedy is a staff sergeant and medical technician in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. She also works in the membership department at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.