The Department of National Defence’s reliance on outmoded training using animals is needlessly endangering the men and women who Canada puts in harm’s way. Ending the cruel and gratuitous killing and harming of animals at DND facilities can save lives, both animal and human.
We need you to help persuade our new Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, to order the DND to end its needless, painful experiments on animals — almost 3,000 every year, mostly pigs and rodents.
Dr. Olivier Berreville, one of our directors, has a PhD in biology from Dalhousie University. He has written an exhaustive briefing paper on the DND’s use of animals. Because much of the DND’s animal research is kept secret, it was no easy task finding out what’s really going on. Our Access to Information requests, for example, are riddled with blacked out passages and missing pages. What is the military hiding and why?
Canada’s military has a long history of using animals. On the battlefield, they’ve been used to carry loads, detect poisonous gas, find explosives and mines, and deliver messages.
According to Dr. Berreville’s briefing paper, the DND oversees a number of research facilities where animal experimentation may be taking place. DND secrecy means our information is incomplete.
One is the Suffield Research Centre, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, where the research areas include chemical and biological defense, medical countermeasures and toxicology, explosives threat assessment and blast effects. The Suffield Research Centre is also where “live agent training for the Canadian Armed Forces, international military, and first responder communities” takes place.
Another facility is the Toronto Research Centre which collaborates with universities like the University of Alberta and private companies such as Canada West Biosciences Inc. on areas involving radiological nuclear defence.
In Winnipeg, the DND works with the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health. It’s a Level 4 infectious disease laboratory complex that conducts research on some of the most lethal bacteria, viruses and toxins, such as the Ebola virus.
What do we suspect is happening to animals in these research facilities?
According to Dr. Berreville, the DND is repeatedly exposing thousands of animals—sometimes the same animal over and over—to chemical-weapons to test antidotes. Researchers are deliberately wounding animals to train personnel to deal with injuries from gun shots, explosives, burns, and other trauma. Again, sometimes the same animal is used over and over again.
The information we’ve been able to gather reveals that “the majority of these animals are subjected to highly invasive procedures likely to produce extreme suffering [including]:
• the testing of chemical agents (such as nerve agents);
• the testing of biological agents;
• the infliction of wounds (including head injuries); and
• the testing of vaccines against biological warfare agents (anthrax, Burkholderia pseudomallei, etc.) on previously infected animals.
Canada is one of the few countries remaining that hasn’t replaced animal use for trauma training with high quality alternatives. Eighty percent of NATO countries don’t use animals for training. Why not? It has little to do with animal cruelty. It’s about better outcomes when alternatives are used rather than animals.
There are alternatives, for example, that make the use of pigs and other animals poor choices, because alternatives solve the problem that animals differ from humans physiologically and anatomically. Alternatives accurately mimic human physiology and anatomy.
And, unlike anesthetized animals, high-tech simulators can move and respond and provide the enhanced advantage of unlimited repetitions so that personnel can master skills and learn to better respond to multiple situations. That’s why alternatives to animals are used worldwide for both civilian and military training.
For our men and women in uniform, the ‘life and death’ fact is that using modern alternatives to animals helps save soldiers’ lives. The DND knows this. In 2012, then Minister of Defence Peter MacKay and DND officials said they’d be phasing out animal use in training. As best as we can tell, little or nothing has happened. Why? It’s about jobs, not best practices.
How You Can Help
1. Please write in opposition to the DND’s animal experiments and the unnecessary suffering they’re causing.
Tell the Minister that his department is putting the men and women whom he is responsible to keep safe at greater risk because it refuses to use superior alternatives to using animals. Handwritten letters are best but you may also use our sign-on letter by clicking here. Letters can be mailed postage-free.
The Hon. Harjit Sajjan
Minister of National Defence
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
2. Join us and help end Canada’s use of animals in military trauma training.