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25. U.S. Military Trains Soldiers to Kill and Eat Tame Animals

Source: THE ANIMALS AGENDA, July/August 1999, Title: “Irrational Rations: Animals Used in Military Training” Author: D’Arcy Kemnitz

Faculty Evaluator: Laurel Holmstrom
Student Researchers: Rebecca Aust & Aimee Regan

Mainstream coverage: Seattle Times, July 2, 1999, page B1; Willington-Star News, July 12, 1999, page 3B; News & Observer, Raleigh NC, July 6, 1999, page Al; Spokane Review, Spokane WA, July 2, 1999, page Al; Denver Post, June 30, 1999, page B4

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have charged that animals are being killed unnecessarily in military training classes. A course titled “Survival Skills” taught at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah teaches soldiers to hunt, kill, cook, and eat tame rabbits and chickens.

According to the author, the animals are transported from a local farm to the training grounds by truck. The soldiers then stage an ambush of the vehicle and release, chase, capture, and kill the animals. The officers in charge demand that the soldiers kill the animals with their bare hands.

While PETA was successful in having the class at Dugway discontinued, they also received reports of animal killing at Loring Air Force Base in Maine where soldiers were told to feed and care for rabbits and later to kill and eat them. At Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington, eyewitness accounts describe soldiers who are “required to stroke the rabbit to calm it, then bash it on the head—and the rabbits don’t always die with the first blow.”

Survival skills training classes began in 1947, in Alaska, to expose Air Force members to the harsh Arctic, and later a training camp was opened near terrain that resembles the former Soviet Union. By 1966, several of these classes were developed to train for the action in Vietnam. Marine Sergeant Joe Bangert told Life magazine in 1971, “The day before I went to ‘Nam this staff sergeant came out in front of us with a rabbit. Petting it he pulled out a knife and started skinning it, then disemboweled it.”

Government documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show that two Air Force bases alone used more than 1,500 rabbits each year at a cost of more than $10,000. According to a 1997 Department of Defense (DOD) report, the Air Force kills more rabbits in survival skills courses than does the DOD in all its intramural research facilities combined. PETA estimates that more than 10,000 animals, including chickens, rabbits, and goats are used each year in dozens of classes at military installations around the country.

These exercises seem to serve no practical purpose and teach no relevant skills to soldiers who may one day experience life-threatening, adverse conditions. Soldiers stranded in wartime are not likely to find tame bunnies and hens sitting on a battlefield. These live animal programs are controversial even within the military. Major General Leo J. Baxter of the U.S. Army base in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, stated, “We [at Fort Sill] are in complete agreement that there is no need to utilize live animals for realistic survival skills training.”

In the past, there have been instances where such exercises were canceled after receiving national exposure, yet thousands of animals continue to suffer each year on military bases that pursue this training.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR D’ARCY A. KEMNITZ: The story “Irrational Rations: Animals Used in Military Training” outlined a campaign begun when soldiers at U.S. military bases learned they were expected to kill rabbits with their bare hands in “survival skills” training classes. Whistleblowers called animal rights groups to try to get this practice stopped, and their reports marked the lurid beginnings of a national effort to stop one of the most outdated, barbaric, and unjustifiable practices in the military. These exercises result in the deaths of more than 10,000 animals annually—including goats and chickens—usually by soldiers using their bare hands or primitive tools such as rocks and sticks.

The practice dates back to World War II and was designed to teach soldiers how to procure food when separated from their divisions for long periods of time. However, in the modern exercises, soldiers are given tame rabbits before heading out to the training field. Nothing about the exercises simulates combat conditions with regard to “hunting” for food, making the classes as pointless as they are cruel.

Following the story’s publication in The Animals Agenda, articles appeared in newspapers in areas near large military installations, and Time magazine covered the story as well. The Pentagon’s public affairs division has frustrated activists by obstructing any communication with decision-makers on the issue.

The mainstream press responded with an emphasis on the gory aspects of small animals being killed by soldiers. Other individuals who were more familiar with such practices took action to stop animals from being killed. For instance, one Seattle-based former survival skills training instructor, who taught rabbit killing exercises to soldiers going to Vietnam, wrote to members of Congress to help initiate legislation to stop the practice. He stated: “As a former Air Force Sergeant survival instructor at Fairchild Air Force Base from 1968 to 1971… I taught survival in both classroom and field settings. Part of that training was the practice of killing a live rabbit with my own hands and then butchering the rabbit as one would a larger animal such as a deer. Since the rabbit was caged and hand-fed for a few days before being dispatched, my students often became attached to this animal and were reluctant to see or conduct the killing themselves …. The killing and butchering of these live rabbits is wholly unnecessary and does not enhance the survival of military personnel.”

What remains now is for military authorities and/or members of Congress to use the information revealed in this campaign and take appropriate action to end this cruel and unproductive practice.

For more information regarding the campaign to stop the use of live animals in military survival skills training courses, contact: The Animals Agenda, P.O. Box 25881, Baltimore, MD 21224; Tel: (410) 675-4566; E-mail:office@ani-malsagenda.org; Web site: http://www.animalsagenda.org.

  • Todd January 8, 2012

    This class helps the soldiers learn how to butcher animals and prepare them correctly for eating. For anyone that has ever killed an animal with a knife or spear or something that would be used in a survival situation they know that there is  a mental barrier you have to cross to kill a struggling animal. It is harder than you might think, and any hesitation would result in the animal escaping. This class helps the soldiers get over that so they will be able to survive. 
    I also think its kind of interesting that PETA criticizes the fact that the rabbits are tame…, imagine what they would do if the military was having them catch wild animals, it would be a outrage. 
    You panzies need to chill and let the military do its thing, military training gets alot of thought and research put into it and it makes amazing warriors. 
    Ill also quickly mention that the classes responsible for the goat deaths are medical classes that are proven to make some of the best medics in the world. They save alot of human lives.

    • Courtneyvogelin January 17, 2012

      How will they ever be able to survive lost in the wilderness if they can’t even catch a rabbit?  You will NEVER stumble across a cage of tame rabbits in the middle of nowhere.  The soldiers should be taught how to hunt in a real setting and how to make tools and traps to catch these animals.  Also, how does operating on a goat blown to pieces teach someone to work on a human?  These goats can be shot 70+ times in a row.  There will be nothing left to work with and a goat’s anatomy is entirely different from that of a human.  War is really pointless anyway.  If we all just learned to talk things out we wouldn’t be losing all these poor people in the first place.

      • SpencerJones12 January 31, 2012

        This is evil and wrong if you dont agree than go fucking killyourself cocksuckers

      • USAFvet February 27, 2012

         During survival training we are taught how to trap small animals anywhere from a squirrel to a rabbit. But as stated before there is a mental barrier that must be passed to kill the small animal so you can prepare it to eat.  There is nothing evil or wrong with this training and can only be taught in full effectiveness by actually killing, skinning and preparing a small animal for survival. You may see it as barbaric but it is a necessary lesson that must be taught or you will most likely starve while evading and trying to survive. Truthfully I find it sickening that you hold the life of a small animal over that of a member of the armed forces that is trying to stay alive by any means necessary so he/she can fight for your freedom another day. By the way, you’re welcome for your freedom.

        • Corruptedpeoole November 15, 2012

          Are you fucking me!? With out technology today with have to practice on live animals to do this? Im only 18 but yet if I was stranded and needed to eat and trap animals I would know how to do it already, all you need to use is logic, not difficult. You need to practice over and over again to kill a small animal? Not saying I would do it most likely will never do it but if u have to kill a “bunny” you can snap their necks or a swift blow with something sharp to the back of their heads. As for skinny seriously? And for trapping you just need to be smart and quick. Don’t give me your bullshit. Real soldiers won’t need to do this so I’m not thanking YOU for my freedom.

      • man March 19, 2014

        but what if your attacking a petting zoo?

  • Todd January 8, 2012

    This class helps the soldiers learn how to butcher animals and prepare them correctly for eating. For anyone that has ever killed an animal with a knife or spear or something that would be used in a survival situation they know that there is  a mental barrier you have to cross to kill a struggling animal. It is harder than you might think, and any hesitation would result in the animal escaping. This class helps the soldiers get over that so they will be able to survive. 
    I also think its kind of interesting that PETA criticizes the fact that the rabbits are tame…, imagine what they would do if the military was having them catch wild animals, it would be a outrage. 
    You panzies need to chill and let the military do its thing, military training gets alot of thought and research put into it and it makes amazing warriors. 
    Ill also quickly mention that the classes responsible for the goat deaths are medical classes that are proven to make some of the best medics in the world. They save alot of human lives.

    • Courtneyvogelin January 17, 2012

      How will they ever be able to survive lost in the wilderness if they can’t even catch a rabbit?  You will NEVER stumble across a cage of tame rabbits in the middle of nowhere.  The soldiers should be taught how to hunt in a real setting and how to make tools and traps to catch these animals.  Also, how does operating on a goat blown to pieces teach someone to work on a human?  These goats can be shot 70+ times in a row.  There will be nothing left to work with and a goat’s anatomy is entirely different from that of a human.  War is really pointless anyway.  If we all just learned to talk things out we wouldn’t be losing all these poor people in the first place.

      • SpencerJones12 January 31, 2012

        This is evil and wrong if you dont agree than go fucking killyourself cocksuckers

      • USAFvet February 27, 2012

         During survival training we are taught how to trap small animals anywhere from a squirrel to a rabbit. But as stated before there is a mental barrier that must be passed to kill the small animal so you can prepare it to eat.  There is nothing evil or wrong with this training and can only be taught in full effectiveness by actually killing, skinning and preparing a small animal for survival. You may see it as barbaric but it is a necessary lesson that must be taught or you will most likely starve while evading and trying to survive. Truthfully I find it sickening that you hold the life of a small animal over that of a member of the armed forces that is trying to stay alive by any means necessary so he/she can fight for your freedom another day. By the way, you’re welcome for your freedom.

        • Corruptedpeoole November 15, 2012

          Are you fucking me!? With out technology today with have to practice on live animals to do this? Im only 18 but yet if I was stranded and needed to eat and trap animals I would know how to do it already, all you need to use is logic, not difficult. You need to practice over and over again to kill a small animal? Not saying I would do it most likely will never do it but if u have to kill a “bunny” you can snap their necks or a swift blow with something sharp to the back of their heads. As for skinny seriously? And for trapping you just need to be smart and quick. Don’t give me your bullshit. Real soldiers won’t need to do this so I’m not thanking YOU for my freedom.

    • Courtneyvogelin January 17, 2012

      How will they ever be able to survive lost in the wilderness if they can’t even catch a rabbit?  You will NEVER stumble across a cage of tame rabbits in the middle of nowhere.  The soldiers should be taught how to hunt in a real setting and how to make tools and traps to catch these animals.  Also, how does operating on a goat blown to pieces teach someone to work on a human?  These goats can be shot 70+ times in a row.  There will be nothing left to work with and a goat’s anatomy is entirely different from that of a human.  War is really pointless anyway.  If we all just learned to talk things out we wouldn’t be losing all these poor people in the first place.

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