Shooting animals or amputating their limbs isn't the best way to train medics in how to function on a battlefield, say doctors and veterinarians who are calling for an end to the US military trauma training.
"To me it's really barbaric that we are having this kind of practice for some of our medics in the military," Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu told NBC News.
Lieu is co-sponsoring a bill, the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, which would eliminate the use of animals during military medical training exercises.
"We want the Department of Defense to issue a directive saying no service shall engage in live training using animals where they basically maim pigs, dogs, goats and then have these folks deal with the injuries. It really is torturing these animals."
The training currently involves utilising live animals — usually pigs and goats — which are cut, shot, burned, poisoned or have limbs severed while anesthetized as medics try to keep the animal alive. The aim is to simulate real world conditions of responding to injuries on a battlefield.
But several doctors believe the practice isn't necessary for effective training. "Killing animals is not required at all to insure the training of personnel. What you are gaining is almost nothing," said Dr Anahita Dua of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Combat medics who train exclusively or mostly on animals are at a loss when they have to deal with far different human anatomy on the battlefield, she said.
Students learn more effectively working with human cadavers or on realistic human anatomy dummies, Dua added.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the US military uses more than 8,500 animals every year in its combat trauma training courses