The US Department of Defense (Dod) has confirmed it intends to replace the use of animals with superior human simulators in several key medical training areas.

A memorandum from US Assistant Defense Secretary Dr Jonathan Woodson said: "Suitable simulation alternatives can replace the use of live animals in these exercises."

Scheduled to go into effect by 1 January 2015, the decision follows a campaign from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to expose and end the use of live animals, which can be shot, cut into and destroyed in military training exercises.

"Suitable simulation alternatives can replace the use of live animals in these exercises."

The six training programmes that are set to replace animal use include advanced trauma life support, neonatal and paediatric resuscitation, obstetrics and gynaecology, nursing anaesthesia and continuing medical staff skills training, as well as field surgical and critical care training.

PETA laboratory investigations director Justin Goodman said: "This tremendous step to modernise military medicine will spare countless animals [the] pain and suffering, and ultimately improve medical care for our brave men and women in uniform.

"We continue to urge the DoD to join the nearly 80% of our NATO allies that have entirely replaced the use of animals in medical training with superior simulation technology."

In addition to creating regulations that require the use of non-animal training methods whenever available, the Pentagon also recently supported and presented studies that demonstrated that life-like human simulators teach medical skills as well as or better than live animals.

The US is one of only six out of 28 Nato countries that use animals in military medical training, according to a study undertaken by PETA in 2012.

PETA also prompted the US Army and Coast Guard to draft new policies restricting the use of animals in medical training and requiring greater use of simulation and other non-animal methods, in 2013 and 2014.

In addition, the organisation recently convinced the army to stop poisoning monkeys in chemical-attack training exercises, as well as the Naval Medical Center San Diego, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and Madigan Army Medical Center, to stop forcing hard tubes down live cats’ and ferrets’ throats in paediatric intubation exercises.

Defence Technology