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Monkey Business

Dear U.S. Army – you’ve got my goat

Last month, I received a few calls about my editorial, “A Throw-Away Society.” The callers all agreed with me.Well, this month speaks to a throw-away society as well, but I doubt that everyone is going to agree with me.A few feathers have already been ruffled because of an article published in the Gazette concerning a controversial (depending on whom you talk to) training exercise at Fort Carson. If my editorial about this perceived controversy doesn’t spark a few fires, I don’t know what will.On Sept. 8, the Gazette revealed that Fort Carson U.S. Army officials are using goats to train medics from the 10th Special Forces Group. Apparently, the army has been doing so for years – first it was dogs, but a public outcry forced them to compromise, so Army officials switched to goats.The Gazette reported that the goats are sedated and purposefully injured – shot at, whatever (according to the article, goats are pushed off a cliff) to simulate battlefield wounds. The theory behind the goat war (although the goats are not armed) is that the medics will be better equipped to deal with real-time, war-related injuries. Lives are saved, the Army officials say.The article and a subsequent article in the Gazette (Sept. 9) mentioned that the National Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are urging Army officials to halt the practice. In the original Gazette story, a biologist weighed in saying the goats would not be necessary if the Army “went high-tech, using electronic simulations to replace animal training.”Here’s my take on it: The goats are not necessary – period. What’s necessary is a hearty look at what the heck has happened to our human connection to earth and the animals.Throughout history, we have used animals for food, clothing, transportation and farming. We have mounted, hunted, trapped and slaughtered millions of animals, from horses to cows to pigs. The animals helped us survive, kept us warm with their fur coats and gave us more to eat than the berries off the vines.As time went on, we “evolved” regarding the animals and sought pleasure in their companionship, so we domesticated them. Fast forward to 2004, and we now have millions of unwanted, discarded animals in humane societies across the country because we wanted a companion.Man “evolved” even more regarding the animals when he decided to keep and breed animals in captivity for easy access to fur (mink farms), food (factory farms), recreation (zoos) and sport (commercial shooting resorts). Man has also kept and bred animals for cosmetic and medical experimentations.Many argue that sacrificing animals for medicine is cruel. Some, even the medical professionals, say it’s unnecessary because it’s not apples to apples – the ways in which diseases affect animals and humans are different. But animals in medical experiments are in a controlled environment and they are not shot at or thrown over cliffs nor do trucks or cars purposefully run over them.(I will say this: Controlled environment or not, blinding animals and burning their skins for the cosmetic industry is just plain wrong: There are excellent products available that promote beauty without cruelty.)However, I am not talking about animal rights in general. I have to narrow my focus, or the Monkey Chronicles will become a book.So, I am not against death; I am not against hunting. However, I am without question against animal cruelty, and throwing goats over cliffs and shooting to wound them is blatantly cruel.Maj. Rob Gowan, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., said in the Gazette article that the goats are treated humanely. I think Gowan needs to check out a dictionary for the definition of humane.Fort Carson officials say the goats are sedated before they are wounded. If they are sedated too much, I think it would be too easy for the soldiers. I don’t believe the goats are sedated. As a journalist for the past five years, I’ve witnessed too many lies. Call me cynical, but it’s about reality.In Colorado, we have beefed up our animal cruelty laws because of the direct correlation of animal abuse to child abuse and domestic violence in general. You are not allowed in this state to randomly shoot at animals or toss them off cliffs or maim or harm them in any way. (I am not talking about shooting a dog that is getting into your chicken coop on your property.) If you do harm an animal, you could be looking at jail time and hefty fines depending on the nature of the act.The cruelty laws exist because the majority of Americans can’t stand to watch an animal in pain.Why do you think we swerve to miss a run-away dog or cat or even a squirrel?Americans, for the most part, love their animals. They love the wild animals, too. My neighbors in Falcon love their llamas, their donkeys, their goats, their horses, their dogs, their cats, etc.Think about it: Firemen are known for getting kitties out of trees; there are constant stories about people rescuing animals – dogs, horses and goats. I watched a show recently where a group of people spent hours rescuing a dog that was caught on ice in the middle of a lake in the Midwest. They finally got a canoe and chopped through the ice to get to the dog.Yet, we are expected, says the U.S. Army, to sit back, do nothing and agree that injuring goats for war-related purposes is okay. This isn’t about war; it’s not about medicine; it’s not about saving lives. It’s about condoning deliberate acts of animal cruelty; it’s about teaching young military men and women that it’s okay to be cruel.It’s about the U.S. Army saying that, no matter what the public thinks, they will not stop this barbaric and archaic practice. How pompous of them when we pay their salaries. We have a right in this country to challenge any practice the U.S. government puts into place. The U.S. Army says the goat cruelty is in line with federal animal cruelty laws. Perhaps it’s time those laws are changed.Okay, so I am sure that a few of you are thinking right now that my opinion is based on emotion. You might be thinking I am a peace-loving liberal who hates President Bush and the Iraq War – all wars, etc. You might be thinking that since I’ve never spent a day in the military, what do I know.You might also be thinking that I’ve never seen a battlefield, so what do I know. Well, I’ve experienced a few battlefields, my friends, and my battles and those I’ve witnessed have been firsthand concerning neglect and cruelty to humans and animals. But if you challenge me, then step up to the plate and let your voice be heard. I’ll be glad to publish your editorial next month. I believe in free speech, and I believe that we all have a right to our opinion.Meanwhile, remember that war in and of itself is cruel, no matter how necessary. With so many cruelties in this world, why are we adding to them?We live in an age where technology is beyond what we ever believed, and I refuse to believe there is no better way to teach medics how to care for wounded soldiers. I refuse to believe that in 2004 we need to bring goats to simulated battlefields and shoot them or injure them for the sake of saving lives.It’s not real, and it’s not what America is about.mlmon@att.net

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