Animal-rights activists plan to protest today against Camp Pendleton's use of live pigs in medical training for troops that they argue is antiquated and cruel but officials call life-saving.
The demonstration comes on the heels of published reports that the base last week trained Marines at an avocado ranch in northeastern San Diego County owned by a retired Marine who is also an Escondido police officer.
During the training, according to news accounts, 2- to 3-month-old pigs ranging from 140 to 200 pounds were sedated before instructors used scalpels to inflict wounds and then watched as Marines worked to keep the pigs alive.
"In the final exercise," the Los Angeles Times reported, "the pigs are shot in ways that approximate the injuries that a Marine might suffer, some of the shots severing limbs."
The off base training, occurring since 2006, came to light after neighbors of the ranch complained about noise to authorities. Base officials allowed three media outlets access to the training and those news reports in turn are the impetus for today's protest.
Pendleton is paying $1 million to Gig Harbor, Wash.-based Deployment Medicine International, for trauma training of 1,300 Marines and sailors this year, including what's dubbed "live tissue" training, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Pendleton confirms.