TAMPA - In the military, it's sometimes called "Goat Lab."
Wounds are deliberately inflicted on anesthetized goats - broken legs, amputations, sucking chest wounds. Then combat medics treat them. The military says it's realistic training that later saves lives in combat.
But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is criticizing the Florida National Guard's participation in a $5.3 million Pentagon-funded study that may determine whether Goat Lab is better training than using computerized mannequins.
The University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation is taking part in the study, which involves a consortium of schools led by the University of Missouri.
The mission is to evaluate existing combat trauma training and recommend how such training should be done in the future.
The Florida Guard said it is sending 30 medics to the center Friday through Monday to take part in the study. Part of the study involves medics in a control group training with live animals, said Lt. Col. James Evans, a guard spokesman.
Still, it is unclear whether the live-animal part of the study will take place at USF or one of the other schools involved. Evans said medics in Tampa may work with mannequins. He wasn't sure. USF and Missouri officials declined to comment.
But PETA officials said a "whistle-blower" told them guard medics would work on live animals during Tampa training.
"We welcome the recognition by the (Guard) that modern simulation is the future of military medical training, but no more animals need to be stabbed, mutilated or shot to make this point," said Justin Goodman, PETA's director of laboratory investigations.
In a statement, the Florida Guard said, "This study has been sanctioned by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and is supportive of (Department of Defense) efforts to refine, reduce and appropriately replace the use of live animals in medical education and training whenever possible."
The Guard said the military has used animals in medic training for decades.
Some medics said trauma training using animals offers benefits that the mannequins, also called simulators, do not.
"The sims are great, but only to a point," said Andrew Harriman, 29, a Pinellas County resident and former Army medic who served in Iraq. "Yeah, you can program them to do anything you want. But you don't have the sense of urgency as you do with a live patient."
He said that in his training, conducted by Special Forces, a veterinarian and two assistants oversaw the exercise and ensured animals remained anesthetized.
Congress has directed the Pentagon to phase out "live-tissue training" and rely more on simulators. Military officials say they are reducing animal use. But they say simulators can't replace them completely.
"Until there are validated alternatives, the experience and confidence gained by the use of the live-animal model in teaching life-saving procedures cannot be substituted by other training methods," said an April report by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
The Florida Guard said it last participated in trauma training using animals in 2009. But the Guard could provide no details.
PETA said in a letter to the Guard that studies have shown training with simulators "is more effective at preparing medical personnel to treat traumatic injuries than crude animal laboratories."
PETA also points to a 2009 email by Col. Scott Goodrich, a surgeon with the U.S. Army Europe, in which he said of live-tissue training: "There still is no evidence that LTT saves lives. That it improves confidence and perception of competence is a given."
William R. Levesque can be reached at (813) 226-3432.