HSUS Campaigns for Army to Stop Battlefield Medical Training with Goats

The Humane Society of the United States objected in September to the Army’s plans to injure goats in order to teach battlefield medical techniques to special forces units at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The training exercise calls for the goats to be sedated and then wounded. Special forces soldiers than treat the injuries. At the end of the exercise, the goats are euthanized.

HSUS sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking that goats not be used in the exercise. Michael Stephens, HSUS vice president for animal research issues said in a press release,

ThereÂ’s a certain implausibility to the claim that such an exercise would properly prepare anyone for the projected scenario of battlefield care. Of course, The Humane Society of the United States supports proper training of military medical personnel for the benefit of American soldiers, but injuring animals need not be part of the process. The Department of Defense has had nearly 20 years to figure out how to train army medics without harming live animals. If they can devise unmanned drones and bunker-busting bombs, surely they can figure out how to simulate human battlefield injuries without injuring animals.

. . .

The Humane Society of the United States, on behalf of our eight million constituents, will continue to urge the military to stop these senseless exercises. If the DOD doesn’t like the currently available alternatives, they should spend some money and effort into research on other methods of training.

That message certainly got through to goat farmer Karen Robinson, who told The Colorado Spring Gazette that the planned exercise was wrong because,

They [goats] are almost like humans.

For its part, the Army claims the goats are treated humanely and that using goats is vital to the Special Forces training. Rebecca Ellison of the United States Army Special Forces Command issued a statement saying,

The army will go forth with this training because it is vital in teaching special forces and other special operations medics to manage critically injured patients. In effect, this type of training is directly responsible for saving lives in real world combat situations. All training involving animals is conducted in accordance with established protocols and all applicable federal laws.

Using goats to practice battlefield medical techniques is a method that the Special Forces have used for almost 20 years.


Goat lovers aghast over Army plan. Tom Roeder, Colorado Springs Gazette, September 9, 2004.

Using injured goats for Army training causes controversy. KOAA, September 9, 2004.

Nexia Biotechnologies to Work on Nerve Gas Antidote from Goat's Milk

Nexia Biotechnologies made headlines in 2002 when it announced it had created genetically modified goats that expressed a protein unique to spiders its milk. This month Nexia announced that it would work with the Canadian military to develop a genetically modified goat that would express a powerful nerve gas antitoxin in its milk.

Its research there will focus on production of a recombinant version of butyrycholinesterace (BChE). BChE is found in small quantities in the blood of many animals, and acts as a defense against nerve agents. It binds with the components of nerve agents and renders them harmless within the blood stream. Of course in a full-fledged nerve gas attack, this small amount of naturally occurring BChE is quickly overwhelmed.

Nexia will try to create a GM goat that produces BChE in large quantities that could then be prepared as an injection which military forces could use on the battlefield to better protect themselves against nerve agents such as sarin gas.

According to Nexia, studies in animals have shown that injections of relatively large amounts of BChE have protected lab animals from such agents, but the inability to produce large quantities of it has precluded BChE from applications in human beings.


Fighting Nerve Gas: Would Use Milk of Transgenic Animals. National Post, April 2, 2003.

Protexia? – A Bioscavenger. Nexia Biotechnologies, 2003.

ALF Got Your Goat – Literally

In mid-March, Animal Liberation Front extremists took credit for stealing 43 goats from a farm in the United Kingdom that supposedly was a supplier to Huntingdon Life Sciences. The activists issued a communique taking responsibility for the action saying,

In the early hours of Friday 15th March, activists did a raid on Water Farm Goat Centre, Stogursey, Bridgwater, Somerset which supplies many vivisection laboratories around the country such as the notorious Huntingdon Life Sciences. Determined activists headed across fields to the farm full of goats and soon gained access to the barn containing them. Everyone worked as a team and set to work carrying the heavy mothers out of the pen and led them to the edge of the field. Nearly all the baby goats were also rescued, some just a few weeks old. Drivers were contacted and vehicles soon arrived and drove the animals to safety. These beautiful creatures would have been tortured in unnecessary experiments but now they have all been re-homed and will live happy lives in their natural habitat. We will continue to rescue more animals from abuse

Until all are free,


Or at least until a significant proportion of ALF activists are in jail.


43 Goats liberated from HLS SUpplier. Press Release, Animal Liberation Front, March 15, 2003.

Goats as Malaria Vaccine Factories

So called “farmaceuticals” — genetically engineered animals that express drugs in their milk — has long been predicted as a likely eventual outcome of biotechnology efforts and that possibility took a big step forward with the recent announcement of initial success using mice to produce a malaria vaccine for monkeys. This advances is especially noteworthy since the technique used should scale well to larger animals such as goats, which could have an enormous impact on controlling disease in the developing world.

In this instance, researchers developed mice that secreted an experimental malaria vaccine in their milk. Two separate strains of transgenic mice were created, each of which carried a form of a gene to produce a surface protein of a strain of malaria. The mice were designed so that the gene to produce the proteins could be turned on only by the cells that line the animals’ mammary glands, ensuring that the proteins would be secreted in the milk of the animals.

The vaccine was then purified and injected into monkeys who were then exposed to the malaria parasite. In the extremely small experiment, only one of the five monkeys who received the vaccine contracted malaria, compared to six out of seven monkeys in a control group who did not receive the vaccine.

Doing this with mice is amazing, but here’s where things get very interesting. When researchers designed the mice to express the protein, they used DNA from goats, meaning it should be possible to create goats which also express the protein. In fact Science Daily reports that preliminary, unpublished research suggests the procedure works well in larger animals.

If this result holds, this could revolutionize vaccine research into diseases that largely afflict the developing world. Vaccine research in the developed world is problematic enough. Regulatory and liability issues, combined with expensive manufacturing processes have stunted vaccine research into diseases that still afflict people living in the developed world. When it comes to research on a vaccine for a disease like malaria, those concerns are even larger given the economic situation of much of the developing world (and hence the likelihood that much of the developing world would be unable to afford such a vaccine even if it were available).

Being able to have such medications produced by a herd of goats, however, would drastically lower the costs of such vaccines. Considering that the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 1 million people die annually from malaria-related complications, this technology could have an enormous public health impact.


Scientists Milk Animals for Malaria Vaccine. Science Daily, December 18, 2001.

Goats may provide malaria vaccine. The BBC, December 29, 2001.

Medical Advances Thanks to Animals

In April, Alexion Pharmaceuticals
and Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital announced they transplanted
genetically altered pig nerve cells into an animal model of Alzheimer’s
disease (in this case, mice). The mice regained cognitive abilities once
the pig cells were implanted.

“The current test model represents
the most rigorous animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, in which wholesale
loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with highly advanced stages
of the disease,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, associate professor in the Neuroregeneration
Laboratories at McLean Hospital. “Today’s reported findings represent
the first demonstration of functional restoration using transgenic pig
neurons in an animal model of Alzheimer’s.”

Meanwhile, researchers at Genzyme
Transgenic Corp., Tufts University and Louisiana State University announced
in April that they had genetically engineered goats to produce a human
protein used to affect the clotting of blood. The goats were the result
of a cloning experiment, suggesting that someday large numbers of genetically
engineered animals, carrying important drugs for treating human diseases
and medical conditions, may be produced relatively rapidly.