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 By Miriam Raftery

May 5, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – In March, ECM reported on military medic training at Covert Canyon in Alpine that reportedly includes maiming and shooting of live pigs.  Now has launched a petition to stop use of live animals in military medical training.

“A new undercover investigation shows in graphic detail how more than 6,000 goats and pigs are intentionally maimed -- while they're still alive and many without adequate anesthesia--in military medical training exercises every year,” reports. “The Department of Defense says trainers slice open live animals and saw off their limbs in order to train medics in how to treat human injuries.” (Warning: Video footage from the investigation is disturbing:  goats' legs are cut off with garden shears and goats moan in pain.) View video or sign the petition:

Covert Canyon’s owner has contended that animals are not treated inhumanely. The military has argued that live training is necessary to simulate combat injuries.  The Humane Society has called for an end to the practice, but San Diego County officials have declined to intervene.  

But increasingly, some medical professionals and veterans now counter that this kind of cruelty to animals is no longer necessary -- and is, in fact, counterproductive --- when human-patient simulators can be used instead and some experts say they are more effective.

Dr. James Santos is a retired Lieutenant Commander in the Navy and a physician. And after working with real patients in the field and at the Naval Medical Center, he says operating on live animals did not train him in how to treat real, complex human injuries.  Dr. Santos has started the petition calling on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to eliminate live animals in military medical training. 

Not only is this type of “treatment” cruel, it could actually make medics less prepared to treat real human injuries, Dr. Santos contends. "Compared with humans, goats and pigs are much smaller," he says. "Their skin is thicker, and the anatomy of their organs, blood vessels, skeletons are drastically different."

These differences can mean that medics actually have to spend time unlearning what they know about effectively treating animals, or waste time translating from animal to human anatomy in the middle of life and death situations. Whereas human-patient simulators breathe, bleed and even have bones to break -- and allow trainees to practice treatments again and again until they get it right and are as prepared as possible to save real human lives.