Time to kill ‘live tissue training’

Politicos agree on almost nothing these days, but one thing they could find common ground on is that blowing up, shooting, dismembering and stabbing animals — often called “live tissue training” — is a stupid and wasteful way to attempt to train our troops to save lives on the battlefield.

Yes, this still happens. But a bipartisan bill, the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training Practices Act, would address this abominable practice.

{mosads}Last week, while all political eyes were on the admittedly interesting presidential primary smack down, something positive actually happened in Congress. Veterans, physicians, PETA, Congress members, medical simulation-makers and even the creator of the TV series that became “Homeland” — an Israel Defense Force combat veteran — came to the Hill to advocate for our military to join the modern world in ceasing this immoral and wasteful training method.

The overwhelming majority of our military allies no longer do this. Virtually every hospital and medical school across the U.S. has switched to realistic human patient simulators, virtual reality and other 21st century technologies to train doctors to treat gunshot wounds and other traumatic injuries. Not surprisingly, study after study indicates human patient simulation is more effective than mutilating goats and pigs for teaching emergency medical skills.

Yet, rather than modernize their programs, some areas of the U.S. military have attempted to “firewall” — their words — themselves from criticism for continuing this unnecessary animal use by pushing it off military bases and relegating it to remote sites, where it’s led by training contractors with records of rampant abuse and virtually no oversight.

In the past year alone, some of the leading contractors that offer this training for the Pentagon have been exposed for drugging, experimenting on and sexually abusing soldiers; fraud; violently mutilating animals; and flouting other laws and policies. It was even revealed this past summer that the Georgia National Guard contracted the University of Georgia to lead a medical training course that involved cutting into the throats and abdomens of beagle dogs — even though the use of dogs and cats for this kind of training has been banned by the Pentagon since 1983.

Just Google and you’ll see video of a recent course in which pigs were dragged out into the woods, shot in the face and limbs, and repeatedly stabbed to cause massive bleeding. One live pig had its chest carved open and ribs cracked for an exercise during which participants quipped about the TV show “Dexter” and joked that the pig must’ve been a “nonsmoker” as they cut off and passed around pieces of its lungs and heart. In footage from another course, instructors cheerfully whistled while participants cut off live goats’ limbs with tree trimmers and joked that they should be writing songs about it.

Abuses by the companies the military hires for this archaic training have become such a problem that the U.S. Marine Corps emphatically wrote in an updated training guide, “Make sure your units comply with USMC policy and use only approved vendors, and check on their programs to make sure they aren’t doing something illegal, unethical, or immoral, or just plain wrong!”

This training also abuses Americans’ wallets. Don’t take my word for it. Air Force researchers recently noted, “Artificial simulators can be low cost when considering the cost of veterinary personnel and support facilities required for animal training.”

The standard predeployment medical training course costs about $500 per troop when taught with human simulators, or $2,000 per troop using one of these ridiculous animal laboratories. This translates into millions in waste each year. Contractors are fleecing taxpayers by charging the government $2,000 for a pig.

This reckless spending is on top of the more than $20 million the Pentagon has recently spent on studies to confirm what I could have told them for free: Tearing apart goats and pigs isn’t the best way to train service members how to manage injuries in human beings.

For God’s sake, our troops deserve at least as good a medical training experience as kids at Georgetown or Yale; let’s stop slighting the bravest among us by giving them swine instead of soldier simulators.

Matalin is a political contributor, pundit and public speaker. She served as George H.W. Bush’s campaign director and most recently as assistant to President George W. Bush and assistant and counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

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