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Protesters at Camp Pendleton decry use of pigs in trauma training

August 12, 2009 |  5:05 pm

Peta

Two dozen animal rights activists -- accompanied by four dogs -- demonstrated outside Camp Pendleton today to protest the use of pigs in "live tissue" training for Marines and sailors learning how to treat battlefield casualties.

Organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the protesters called on the Marine Corps to use dummies, computerized simulations and other training methods rather than the pigs.

"It's been proven that it can be done," said PETA official Jena Hunt. "Camp Pendleton just needs to take that further step into the modern world."

For an hour, activists waved banners and chanted slogans at the main gate to the base. There were no arrests or confrontations.

"For me animal rights equals human rights," said Nasim Aghdam, 29, a construction company office manager from San Diego. "Just because they can't talk doesn't mean we should take advantage of them."

"We're against war in general but using animals for this is even worse," said Cori Hume, 17, attending the protest with her friend Chelsea Nelson, 18. Both are recent graduates of High Tech High School in San Diego.

Protesters said their complaint was with military brass, not the rank and file. "Support Our Troops. Reject Animal Tests," read one sign.

The protest follows news stories about Camp Pendleton's $1-million contract with a company based in Washington state to provide trauma training to 1,300 Marines and sailors.

Part of the training involves working on pigs. The animals are heavily sedated before being sliced with scalpels. Marines and sailors then try to save their lives with tourniquets, airway clearing and other techniques.

Pigs that survive the slicing and stabbing are later shot in ways to mimic wounds that troops suffer in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pigs that survive that part of the training are euthanized. The carcasses are sent to a rendering plant.

The top doctor at the 1st Marine Division says the live-tissue training cannot be matched by simulators or computers, a contention that the protesters dispute. Nine members of Congress have asked the Army to stop using living animals. The Army has yet to respond.

"You fight for our rights, now fight for theirs," Laurie Robinson, a dog trainer and receptionist from Irvine, shouted at Marines and others driving into the base.

Several of the passing Marines waved at the protesters. Some raced the engines of their trucks and motorcycles, but it was unclear what that was meant to signal.

Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Protesters and one of their dogs outside Camp Pendleton. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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