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Using pigs for corpsmen training to continue in San Diego County


A property owner in rural eastern San Diego County can continue allowing a private contractor to use pigs for "live-tissue" training to help teach Marines and Navy corpsmen how to treat combat wounds, county land use officials have ruled.

As part of the training, the pigs are anesthetized before military personnel work on them. The pigs are later euthanized and the carcasses sent to a rendering plant.

The Marine Corps has used contractors for several years to provide such training for troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops are trained in the use of bandages, tourniquets and hemostatic agents.

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested to county officials after learning a property owner in the Covert Canyon area near Alpine was allowing his property to be used. The same issue arose in 2009 when a different contractor was using private property in rural Valley Center to train troops.

As it did in 2009, officials of the Department of Planning and Land Use concluded that nothing in the zoning regulations prohibited the training -- as long as a ban on firearms and restrictions on the number of students and the number of vehicles on rural roads are followed.

PETA officials, alerted Thursday about the latest ruling, said their lawyers are reviewing the decision. The group will continue to advocate that the Department of Defense or Congress stop the "cruel and outmoded use of animals" in emergency medical training, a spokesman said.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) has submitted a bill that would ban the use of live animals for such training. But Marine brass believe that using pigs is far more instructive than any other method.

"The emotional and physiological response to training with live anatomy and the stress of keeping a specimen alive for many hours best prepares Marines for actual casualties in stressful combat conditions," said Col. Sean Gibson, spokesman with the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.


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--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Marines training with pigs at Valley Center in 2009 with smoke provided to simulate battlefield. Credit: Deployment Medicine Intl.

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