Some new billboards have been popping up around Military City USA with a picture of a goat in an Army uniform. The signs say "Goat Make Lousy Soldiers" and were put up by a nonprofit, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, made up of 12,000 doctors.
One of the group's missions is to shift research from animal models to human-relevant studies. They're hoping that these signs will put pressure on the military to stop using live animals in their combat medic training.
"The military and primarily the Army still uses animals to train soldiers to do different procedures that they might be called on to do in a deployment combat type situation and since the Army has been doing this, there have been developments made as far as simulators go that are far better training than using the animal models," said Dr. Robert DeMuth, member of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and former Army physician.
The U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Health Readiness Center of Excellence says training for combat medics include classroom instruction and then progresses into simulators. Medics train with video games and in virtual environments that help simulate the sights and sounds of combat.
While the Department of Defense has invested $16 million a year in simulation training devices since 2009. They say even the most advanced simulation systems cannot fully replicate the anatomy of a severely wounded soldier.
Dr. Robert DeMuth disagrees. He's deployed twice to Iraq as a brigade surgeon and gone through medic training with simulators and live animals. He says using simulators is much more realistic to a combat zone.
"There's a sense of immediacy and urgency with the simulators. That's exactly how you train, you train how you fight. With the live tissue models, it's in a completely different clinical type environment and the anatomy just isn't like a human being and it's just not good training," said DeMuth.
The Army says they're continuing to collaborate with different agencies and academics to update their combat medic training and look for opportunities to minimize the use of animals. In 2017, the Army Medical Department Center trained over 2400 soldiers in live tissue training using mostly goats and pigs.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is also working with members of Congress to get the BEST Practices Act passed that would give a concrete timeline on the Department of Defense to phase out live animal training.
For more information on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's campaign visit www.TroopsDeserveBetter.org