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PETA demands US Marines stop killing, eating animals during survival training

Royal Thai Marine eats an insect during exercise Cobra Gold 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan E. Gilbert)
March 05, 2020

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has rushed a complaint to the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps after photos emerged of Marines taking part in a survival training exercise in Thailand that involves eating scorpions and snakes.

PETA sent Gen. David H. Berger a letter on Tuesday calling for him to discontinue portions of the Cobra Gold 2020 training exercise in Thailand, where Marines must learn to survive by, among other things, catching and eating wild animals, and drinking their blood.

Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer First Class Pairoi Prasarnsai holds the tails of two snakes as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, March 2, 2020. Prasarnsai, a native of Chaiyaphum province, Thailand, is the Chief Petty Officer of Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Division, Royal Thai Marines.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall)

Photos of the controversial exercise were posted by official U.S. Military public affairs offices. U.S. Marines and their Thai counterparts were taught to handle the jungle’s poisonous wildlife and how to incorporate it into their survival diet. Those Marines were pictured eating insects and drinking the blood of decapitated snakes.

“The photos showing giddy Marines swallowing scorpions and guzzling cobra blood are more reminiscent of a frat party gone wrong than a military drill,” PETA Vice President Shalin Gala said in a press statement provided to American Military News. “PETA is calling on the Marine Corps to take immediate action to replace this barbaric exploitation of animals with cutting-edge, technology-based survival training courses that will better prepare troops.”

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, March 2, 2020.. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall)

“PETA notes that there are more effective non-animal training options, including interactive video games with food procurement components, virtual reality methods that survival experts use to train Air Force pilots,” the organization’s press statement continued, “and instructional books and videos authored by experts who have trained U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) instructors.”

PETA also noted that individual training centers, such as the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) have already stopped using live animals in their own survival training courses. MCMWTC stopped using live animals in 2011 after discussions between the USMC and PETA, the animal rights group noted.

In their letter to Gen. Berger, the animal rights organization included a recent Daily Mail report which detailed the training exercise and noted: “There are also vegan options too with the jungle being rich in fruit and other lush, edible vegetation.”

A Royal Thai Marine, right, teaches a U.S. Marine how to create a fire using bamboo during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 14, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

Cobra Gold 2020 also included training for making a fire, eating plants and alternative ways to stay hydrated, according to photo captions posted by U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs Office.