Medics and corpsman can be trained in a variety of ways. They can operate on troops in cut suits, a fake abdomen and torso filled with simulated organs. They can practice on medical dummies. They can even work in hospitals on real civilian patients. But one of the most realistic training programs for medics is the most controversial, operating on live animals intentionally injured for training.
PETA has been fighting against this training practice for years. The program is referred to by a few names with “live tissue training” being one of the most popular. In live tissue trauma training, or LTTT, animals are given surgical levels of anesthesia before an instructor inflicts trauma on them — everything from broken bones to puncture wounds. In the most intense classes, the animals may be shot or burned.
The medic or corpsman then has to save the animal’s life. As they do so, the instructor can continue injuring the “patient,” forcing the student to continuously decide what to treat first and how to save the animal. LTTT can go on for hours while the animal sleeps.
Then, when the training is complete, the animal is euthanized without ever re-gaining consciousness.
Live tissue training has been restricted for many training programs and legislation has been re-introduced to halt LTTT within the next five years. PETA and others who protest the training method point to the cruelty of killing and injuring animals for the purposes of training.
But, with the staunch support of prominent Army doctors like then-Surgeon General of the Army Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the use of animals in trauma training has continued.
The program has plenty of advocates in Special operations. Jim Hanson, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Times in 2010 supporting the practice by saying it is the only training that provides “the visceral reaction each medic must face when a life is in danger.”
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed in the Benghazi, Libya attack in 2012, once wrote an opinion piece supporting animal training that said, “You can simulate performing a surgical crycothyrotomy on a mannequin a dozen times, but until you’ve cut through living tissue on a creature whose life is depending on your timely and successful procedure to survive, you’ve never really done it.”
In this video, medics operate on a goat while training on surgical procedures. Surgical live tissue training has been discontinued, and monkeys were no longer used for chemical casualty management training starting in 2012. In 2017, it was announced that LTTT would be drastically scaled back in favor of more humane methods.