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US, Thai Marines cave to PETA pressure, stop eating snakes, scorpions in survival exercise

U.S. Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survival training during Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 14, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)
August 17, 2021

U.S. and Thai Marines didn’t consume animals as typical during this year’s iteration of the annual Cobra Gold joint military survival training hosted by Thailand, apparently caving to years-long pressure from animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

PETA shared with American Military News a statement it received from Royal Thai Air Force Lt. Col. Amnuay Kerdkaew, who said “I can confirm that we did not kill any animal in CG [Cobra Gold] 2021.”

A U.S. defense official similarly confirmed to American Military News, “This year’s Cobra Gold field training did not include the use of any animals.”

Coba Gold participants traditionally drink the blood of decapitated snakes, kill chickens with their bare hands and eat lizards and scorpions. The U.S. Marines typically release photos showing Marines taking part in the survival activities.

It’s unclear if the decision not to include animals in this year’s iteration of Cobra Gold will carry forward into future years. The U.S. defense official added, “That portion of the training is always led by the Royal Thai Armed Forces, who elected not to do it this year.”

Lt. Col. Kerdkaew did not immediately respond to an American Military News request for comment.

PETA repeatedly called for organizers of the training exercise to discontinue using live animals. In 2020, the organization sent letters to U.S. Marine Corps commandant Gen. David H. Berger and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper. PETA has also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, calling on him to end the practice.

After its series of letters, PETA stepped up its activism by protesting outside of the Pentagon and then outside the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington D.C. and Austin’s Virginia home earlier this year.

Last month, PETA also filed a report with the Inspector General of the U.S. Navy, Vice Adm. John V. Fuller, arguing that U.S. service members engaging in the consumption of wild animals are guilty of conduct unbecoming of the uniform and thus subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

“PETA exposed the fact that forcing service members to eat animals alive and suck down cobra blood is dangerous, cruel, and likely illegal,” PETA Vice President Shalin Gala said in an emailed statement on Monday. “Such frat boy–style barbarity needs to be relegated to the history books, and this year demonstrates that no animals should ever again be used at Cobra Gold events.”

In a statement on its website, PETA also said “Animal-free survival training in the jungle is something that Boy or Girl Scouts could figure out without reducing themselves to being participants in a cruel, carnival-like, toxic-masculinity sideshow.”