Israeli Military Spent More Than $60,000 on Pigs in 2016 for Surgery Training

The Israeli Society for the Abolition of Vivisection says live animals no longer need to be used because simulators are now available for realistic surgery training.

Pigs at the Animal Research Institute.
Tomer Appelbaum

The defense apparatus approved the purchase of 90 pigs in 2016 for use by doctors and paramedics in practice operations, Haaretz has learned. Pigs are among several species of animal used by the defense apparatus.

Defense Ministry documents reveal that the cost of the pigs that were purchased last April for "training in surgery" was 230,000 shekels (more than $60,000). Trauma training conducted by the Israel Defense Forces is conducted on live pigs, which are subsequently anaesthetized and killed.

In 2015, the defense ministry committee that oversees experimentation on animals approved the purchase of 20 pigs, according to information released under freedom of information legislation. The number was 66 in 2014, 72 in 2013 and 290 in 2012.

The IDF has recently reviewed the internal procedures of the Medical Corps to ensure that animal experimentation is conducted according to accepted international procedures. According to an IDF source, the use of pigs is globally accepted, due to their being "the closest model to humans, as regards both their anatomy and their physiological differences," which enables the simulation of a battlefield wound with a high degree of accuracy.

The experiments have been approved by the Animal Research Institute, on Kibbutz Lahav, where experiments on pigs are conducted, and the defense ministry's Committee for Animal Experimentation, the IDF said.

Tamir Luski of the Israeli Society for the Abolition of Vivisection said that such training could be conducted without using live animals. Simulators for such training have been approved by the Surgeon's Association in the United States and are widely used by American medical schools, he said.

"They are very realistic training dummies that have blood flow and pulse and can be used to simulate all sorts of medical situations," he said. "Over 90 percent of training in the U.S. is done using simulators."

Such simulators are also in use in Israel, he stressed, though the IDF, Ben-Gurion University and the Hebrew University continue to use pigs.

The defense ministry acknowledged that the purchase had been made at the request of the IDF, though fewer pigs had been bought than requested.

The IDF spokesman said that the sole purpose of the experimentation was "training in surgical procedures to save lives," with all necessary approval and in keeping with international practice.