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Estimates: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee (training courses in severe trauma management)

Vice Admiral Griggs and Air Vice Marshall Smart are questioned on the use of live animals in the training of military personnell in early management of severe trauma courses. 

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, when they run early management of severe trauma courses, use live animals to teach emergency medical procedures to ADF personnel. Is that correct?

Vice Adm. Griggs: That is my understanding in certain very limited and specified conditions. I will get Commander Joint Health to give you the details.

Air Vice Marshal Smart: Sorry, Senator: could you repeat the question again?

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, when they run early management of severe trauma courses, use live animals to teach emergency medical procedures to ADF personnel. I was asking whether that was correct, and I was just informed that it was, so I will go on to the next question. Are you aware that the US Department of Defense issued a new policy, effective from 1 January last year, stating that 'suitable simulation alternatives can replace the use of live animals' in the training, and ordered the entire US military to end animal use in favour of simulation? Are you aware that that is the situation with the US military? And has that had any impact on the situation with the ADF?

Air Vice Marshal Smart: I am afraid I will have to take that question on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: So, you cannot give us the ADF's response to the US situation.

Air Vice Marshal Smart: I know, as you mentioned, that it is not the courses we run that involve the use of animals; it is actually courses run by the Royal College of Surgeons, which we outsource that training to. But I am not sure. I will have to take on notice the US edict. Most of our trauma training does not involved the use of animals, but some specific courses have in the past.

Senator RHIANNON: Your colleague Vice Admiral Griggs indicated that the use of live animals is limited and specific. Could you describe what 'limited and specific' means?

Vice Adm. Griggs: Well, they were my words, so I am not sure that-

Air Vice Marshal Smart: It was just to the extent that there are very few courses that we send people on that involve live tissue training. All those courses, as I said, are external to Defence. They are run through-you mentioned the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, but also through other institutions and universities. And it is obviously only in our judgement at the present time and in the judgement of those colleges and universities that the requirement is for live animals to be used in those particular circumstances.

Senator RHIANNON: Am I correct in understanding from that evidence that you are saying that as well as courses in severe trauma run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons courses run by other institutions, say, universities-and I would be interested in what the institutions are-also would be maybe using live animals to teach ADF personnel? So, it is not just the RACS?

Air Vice Marshal Smart: There are several courses-the emergency management of severe trauma course, the definitive surgical trauma course, and some other training as well. The College of Surgeons is one of the providers, but there is also the International Association for Trauma Surgery Intensive Care. Some of those courses are delivered through Australian universities, yes.

Vice Adm. Griggs: We can get you, on notice, the full details of that, if that would help.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and if those details could include whether live animals are used in those courses. Is the ADF-considering the US context with the US Department of Defense issuing that new policy, and also considering how you determine your own policies on these issues-taking steps to immediately require, or to require in the future, all early management of severe trauma courses that your personnel undertake to be taught with non-animal simulation models?

Air Vice Marshal Smart: If there are non-animal simulation options available to deliver the type of training that we need our people to have, then they will always be taken. The types of courses we are talking about are ones for which there is not a simulation option available at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you aware that PETA-People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-has a program in place through which they donate in full or part TraumaMan models to advance trauma life support courses? They make that donation to purchase the skins through the manufacturer at a significant discount, and this has been made available to 16 countries that have accessed the PETA donations, which often turn out to be cheaper than using animals in the experiments. Are you aware of that offer from PETA?

Air Vice Marshal Smart: I am not personally aware of that particular offer. But, again, we do a lot of our training on various types of simulation, but there are some particular techniques for which we need to use the courses provided, mentioned earlier.

Vice Adm. Griggs: And I think we need to bring this back to why we do this training. We do this training to save the lives of the men and women of the ADF, particularly in operational circumstances.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for emphasising that, and I am not questioning that in any way. I thought it was significant to ask these questions in the context of the development with the American College of Surgeons and the US Department of Defense.

Vice Adm. Griggs: And I agree that it is actually a very important question to ask and one that we will examine.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you provide the committee with the details of what animals are used in this teaching and how many of each species?

Vice Adm. Griggs: We will do that as part of that response that we undertook earlier to give you about the different courses; we will put that into the detail of that response.

Senator RHIANNON: For each of the different institutions you engage with-thank you.

CHAIR: And I wonder, continuing on from Senator Rhiannon's question, if you would be good enough to take on notice the fate of those animals that are used-whether they are allowed to recover from anaesthetic or whether they are euthanised at the conclusion of their procedures.

 

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