Using live animals to train troops on how to deal with open wounds is invaluable some say. However, once Escondido city officials learned that its police training facility was being used for that type of training, they shut it down.
At first, Escondido city leaders gave the go-ahead for Marines and sailors to use the facility but when city officials learned the pigs being used in open wound training were being injured, they ordered the company off the property, a police lieutenant told the North County Times Tuesday. That was in 2006. Soon after, the company running the training relocated to a Valley Center avocado grove.
The “live tissue” training involves purposely injuring the pigs, then euthanizing them after the training is completed. The controversial training technique is taking place in a grove east of Pala in North County. It's 17-acres owned by an Escondido SWAT officer David Bishop who is also a retired Marine, the North County Times reported.
“They use pigs to help re-create battlefield injuries,” said Lt. Dan DeSousa of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services.
The pigs are used to train military personnel in critical lifesaving techniques such as stopping massive hemorrhaging and clearing airway blockages, according to military officials.
"It has proven to be the single most-effective medical-training method for teaching combat care," according to a statement issued by the Marine Corps.
Recently, the county department of animal services sent observers to the property where the training is taking place to make sure the animals were not suffering any pain. Those observers were apparently satisfied with what they saw.
“The pigs are completely anaesthetized,” DeSousa said. “They're unconscious. They have a veterinarian on scene at all times, monitoring the pigs, and they never regain consciousness.”
County officials would not say how the pigs were wounded, nor would they confirm how many animals were involved in the training.
Animal rights activists say that there are better alternatives than using live animals.
“There are such good alternatives in simulators, mannequins, high-tech simulators,” said Jane Cartmill of San Diego Animal Advocates. “They twitch, they bleed, their organs pump, move, very much like living beings.”
Both of the people NBC interviewed for this story said the pigs actually have a more humane death than they would in a slaughterhouse.
The training is conducted by a company from Washington state, which provides the animals.