Homeland creator urges MoD to stop shooting live pigs
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Monday 10 December 2012
The creator of hit TV drama Homeland has condemned the Ministry of Defence for running a "crude animal laboratory" in which live pigs are shot with high-powered rifles so army medics can practise surgery on them.
Gideon Raff, the former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) paratrooper who wrote and directed the Israeli original of the award-winning American drama, has written to the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to express his outrage at the scheme, in which British military medics practise emergency surgery on pigs shot at a Nato training camp in Denmark.
Formerly known as "Operation Danish Bacon", the practice was condemned last month by the animal rights group Peta, who called it "impossible to justify medically, ethically or educationally".
The MoD claims the scheme – recently given the more anodyne title "Definitive Surgical Trauma Care (DSTC) course" – provides "invaluable experience" and has helped save soldiers' lives.
During the training at Nato's Jaegerspris base near Copenhagen, pigs are drugged and then shot by marksmen in specific areas of their body. Surgeons must then attempt to save their lives. The MoD sends surgeons for training twice a year. During the last course in November, 18 animals were used. Pigs that survive the experience are later destroyed.
"The UK Ministry of Defence is not saving lives by having military doctors sew up live animals whose bodies have been torn apart by bullets from high-powered rifles," Mr Raff, right, told Mr Hammond in his letter. "I am concerned that this violence still goes on when more humane and effective ways of training medics and doctors are available."
Mr Raff goes on to refer to recent research by the IDF Medical Corps which, he writes, "found that military staff's confidence in performing lifesaving battlefield medical procedures increased when they were trained with sophisticated human simulators and after having experience with real patients – but not after completing crude animal laboratories."
"Caring for the well-being of animals and preparing the troops serving our countries are not mutually exclusive," Mr Raff adds. "In this case, sparing animals pain and death in training drills means that military personnel receive better medical training and ultimately better care if they are wounded on the battlefield."
Advocates of the DSTC course claim that the anatomical similarities between pigs and humans allows for the most true-to-life training available.
Peta claimed the tests would be illegal in the UK, but the MoD said they would be legal but would require case-by-case Home Office approval.
"This training provides invaluable experience, exposing our surgical teams to the specific challenges posed by the injuries of modern armed conflict," an MoD spokesman said. "This training has helped save lives on operations and by participating in the Danish exercises we minimise the overall number of animals used."
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