FAIRBANKS - An animal rights organization is protesting the use of live pigs in a medical course at Fort Wainwright.
The Army has confirmed live pigs were used twice for medic training. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims the pigs were shot and burned.
The Army says on two occasions in August 2007 and May 2008, live pigs were used to conduct an operational emergency medical skills course.
Lt. Col Jonathan Allen, spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska, said he did not know how many pigs were involved or what exactly was done to the animals.
"It's part of the training for medics and personnel who go into the theater with the purpose of saving the lives of soldiers potentially hurt in the field," he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
PETA claimed the animals were shot and burned, a violation of the Department of Defense's policy for animal welfare that requires alternative methods to be used in training when they work just as well as live animals.
The group has asked for investigations at 17 military facilities.
"The majority of medical training does not use any animals," PETA spokesman Shalin Gala said. "They are using an outdated method."
PETA says the military should only use advanced human simulators in its training. But the Army says simulations sometimes aren't good enough when lives are on the line in combat.
"While training on simulators can help medical personnel gain a familiarity with techniques, the myriad of physiological responses present in a live trauma patient teaches them to make rapid decisions and focus on life saving efforts," Jaime Cavazo, spokesman for Army Medical Command, said in an e-mail to the News-Miner.
The Army does use simulators to complement battlefield training, reducing the number of animals used in such exercises. However, Cavazo said animals are still the best training in many cases.
PETA says it has asked President Obama to stop the practice.