An animal rights group's release of a video showing a goat's legs being removed with what appear to be tree trimmers has prompted the Coast Guard to defend the use of live animals in combat medical training.
The Coast Guard said it could not verify that the video posted on YouTube by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Wednesday involved its personnel, The Associated Press reported. But the AP reported that Lt. Cmdr. Jamie C. Frederick, spokesman for the Atlantic area, wrote in an email that the Coast Guard does use "live tissue training using live animals."
The animals appear to be anesthetized in the video, which was purportedly shot in Virginia Beach, Va. In addition to the use of tree trimmers, instructors stab the animals with scalpels and pull out internal organs -- which a narrator and a PETA blog post say was done to simulate injuries. The blog post said that veterinarians who viewed the video said the animals' movements indicate that the goats may not have been adequately anesthetized. At one point, one of the men in video calls for more anesthesia.
PETA said the video was taken by a whistleblower and showed military instructors contracted by the Coast Guard. The faces of the participants are blurred.
Justin Goodman, PETA's associate director of lab investigations, told msnbc.com the group was able to verify the video's authenticity by checking the credentials of the person who leaked it and by cross-referencing the medical training company involved with government contracts.
Tens of thousands of people have responded to a plea on the group's website urging the Pentagon to stop the use of animals in medical trauma training, Goodman said.
"We're still waiting to get a response from the Coast Guard," Goodman said.
Other branches of the military use similar training on goats and pigs, the AP reported, to prepare medics and front-line troops for treating catastrophic injuries in the field of battle. The AP said the Pentagon declined to respond to a request for comment about the video.
"Animals used in trauma training are supported and monitored by well-trained, experienced veterinary staff to ensure that appropriate anesthesia and analgesia prevent them from experiencing pain or distress," Frederick wrote to the AP.
He said the training has also proved invaluable in noncombat situations, such as when Coast Guard members were the first to respond to Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, the AP reported.
But some medical professionals say the practice is cruel and unnecessary and have signed a letter, drafted by PETA, to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seeking an end to the practice, the AP said.
"Learning how to apply a tourniquet on a severed goat's leg does not help prepare medical providers to treat an anatomically different human being wounded on the battlefield," Dr. Michael P. Murphy, an associate professor of surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who served two tours of duty in Iraq, told the AP.
U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, a California Democrat, has introduced legislation, HR1417, to phase out use of live animals by the military in training. So far, he has 49 cosponsors. But he told the AP that he has faced opposition from the Defense Department.
PETA advocates the use of humanlike simulators for military training, like the one shown in this YouTube video.
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