Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Blip: Orwellian firing squads, farmer Jones' revenge?

There’s a practice in the military that has made the news recently due to claims of its cruelty. I happen to agree with those claims but will attempt to give you the information fairly first. Although I ‘blog’ (if that works as an intransitive verb) to give out my opinions, I don’t like information being heavily biased and presented as though it is unbiased.

This particular practice is a way to allow trainee military doctors to gain valuable surgery experience. It involves a highly trained sniper firing a high velocity round into a live pig at point blank range, with a view to hitting certain awkward organs (such as a lung or the stomach.) The pig is then rushed into surgery so the trainees can attempt to save it.

The reported upside is that pigs’ anatomy closely mirrors that of humans, so the experience gained in keeping the pig initially alive, as well as removing the bullet and attempting to fix the problem as best as possible and so on. is extremely valuable. First off, I’ll say I can understand how this must help surgeons. Being put in a high-risk, tension filled situation like those they will be faced with later in their careers means they can be on their best form when it ‘counts’.

Now let’s deal with the myriad of problems I have with it. Firstly, it’s terribly cruel to the pig. The poor little piggy gets shot, has surgery and then, if they survive, they are killed and the body is disposed of; this is because they are military-grade and not food-grade so every element of the pig’s body goes to waste and the end of the pigs life is suffering and pain. I’m no obsessive animal rights campaigner; I don’t happen to eat much meat but I’m not against it. We, as humans, are all omnivores and we use the power we have over pigs and sheep and cows etc. to breed them, herd them, slaughter them and eat them. I think they should be well fed and looked after and their end should be as untraumatic as possible but I don’t think meat- farming should be abandoned. Having said that, I think deliberately putting a pig into a life-threatening state intended to mortally wound it but keep it alive and aware is utterly barbaric.

Secondly, I don’t think the benefits are as great as they seem. Pigs’ livers may be close to ours, but their bodies and minds aren’t. They don’t need to worry about dealing with the pigs’ pain as they would with a human, nor with any anaesthetic dosage problems. Also, psychological factors are ignored that would be equally important if it were a human. This is significant because it means it isn’t unparalleled experience that is vital to a doctor’s development.

Thirdly, alternatives. Consider this very simple, all-beating argument: Some areas of rough cities like Los Angeles, Rotterdam or New York have gang shootings as very regular occurrences. When this happens, whoever is shot goes to the hospitals nearby. These hospitals save countless lives all the time, they are arguably the best people in the world for dealing with gunshot wounds due to their continuous exposure to the problem. They don’t shoot pigs. What do they do? They put the trainees with more experienced doctors and ease their way in until they can start taking charge on their own, they train and get real life experience on people with real gunshot wounds and once adapted to it, and they are more than ready to begin keeping gunshot victims alive.

If, as the supporters of this process say, shooting pigs is utterly vital to a medic’s training, how come so many doctors and surgeons around the world can do so very well at their jobs with no pig shooting involved?

There’s an argument that says human life is worth more than pig life, which I happen to find utter arrogant nonsense. There’s nothing that places our worth above that of a pig’s. Even worse, there is an argument that says a soldier’s life is worth even more than that. Forgetting the fact that being a soldier is a job, a voluntary one at that and a job where all you have to do is pay attention, do what you’re told and stay fit. For being paid on top of being giving all necessities and amenities of life, these people aren’t heroes. They are just employed and they’re not worth the senseless and profitless slaughter of pigs.

If it weren’t for my point about the hospitals that deal with gunshots on a regular basis with a high success rate, I would have more sympathy with supporting opinions because it would come down purely to Humans vs. Pigs in a battle of worth, which is an unclear debate in some ways. My problem is the purely illogical nature of such an act. If you have heard of this case before, you’ll notice that I’ve left out a number of things for the sake of fairness (for example, claims that the snipers have good fun shooting the pigs, a ‘fact’ that is irrelevant as to the moral – or perhaps ethical – element of what we’re talking about).

I’m not expecting much to change, certainly not in a short time. I just wanted to express how down-beaten I feel in being so disappointed in our society. You might say this is whiny but I (even as anti-humanist as I am) expected better from humanity. 


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