On Thursday, the animal-rights organization the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a complaint with Vice Adm. John V. Fuller, the Inspector General of the Department of the Navy, calling for an end to Exercise Cobra Gold, an annual international survival training event in Thailand in which U.S. Marines have previously been photographed eating live insects and drinking the blood of decapitated snakes.
In an emailed statement to supporters, PETA said its letter to Fuller alleges “that Cobra Gold’s so-called ‘survival’ drills on live animals—the annual frat-like party masquerading as training—that are part of the month-long event [that] violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).”
Cobra Gold is the largest joint military exercise in Southeast Asia and, in addition to survival training, also includes disaster response and humanitarian assistance training.
PETA has raised previous complaints about Cobra Gold and even protested outside the Pentagon in April and then again outside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s home in June.
PETA said the survival methods demonstrated in Cobra Gold, to include “killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos, consuming live scorpions and tarantulas, decapitating cobras and drinking their blood, and otherwise reveling in the ritualistic killing and consumption of animals” would violate U.S. cruelty-to-animals laws.
PETA further bases its claim of a UCMJ violation on the argument that those who have participated in killing and eating animals in this manner have committed acts that “bring discredit upon the armed forces” and have participated in “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”
UCMJ Article 134 does describe the ability of a military court to court-martial persons participating in “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty.”
UCMJ Article 133 states any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
“The Marine Corps’ reputation takes a hit every time someone shows a photo of a Marine sucking down cobra blood,” PETA veterinarian and Air Force veteran Ingrid Taylor said. “PETA is calling on the Office of the Naval Inspector General to end the use of animals in this gruesome frat party–like event and reprimand any senior officer who orders Marines to throw decency aside in favor of bloodlust.”
The Stars & Stripes reported that in response to PETA’s protests last month, Austin said the Pentagon will “continue to ensure we are employing best practices for the humane treatment of animals while accomplishing the need to prepare and train our service members for survival in any and all situations.”