People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has demanded an end to snakes being killed and eaten raw at a military exercise in Thailand where US Marines regularly participate.
The "Cobra Gold" exercise in the jungles of Thailand hosted by the Thai military is often attended by US Marines and commandos of Thailand and other countries. Eating snake raw and drinking their blood is part of survival training at the exercise.
"Whether it's over drinking cobra blood together, coordinating fire support, or just sharing a meal in the field, every year Marines make friendships at every level, and strengthen the bond that the US has with Thailand," US Naval Capt. Ryan Poitras said in March of this year.
In a letter dated April 27 addressed to US Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the animal rights group said: “During Cobra Gold, Marines and survival training instructors in Thailand are seen killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos, consuming live scorpions and tarantulas, and decapitating cobras and drinking their blood. These irresponsible actions put troops at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases that can endanger them and the wider public.”
Marines try some of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, insects and animals that can be found in the jungle, and are shown how to safely capture, handle and consume both venomous and nonvenomous snakes during the exercise.
“In the wilderness you can drink the blood of a snake to stay hydrated. Snakes can provide you with both the food and water you need to survive,” Royal Thai Marine Corps Master Sgt. Pairoj Prasansai, a jungle survival training instructor, said after Cobra Gold 2018 exercise.
Citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PETA said that 75% of new infectious diseases in people are due to “spill overs” into humans from animals. Some of the animal-transferred diseases from wildlife include COVID-19, HIV, H5N1 bird flu, SARS, Ebola, monkeypox and Lassa fever.
In 2011, the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC) suspended its use of live animals in its survival training courses following discussions with PETA. Nearly three decades ago, the US Army's Dugway Proving Ground canceled a survival skills training course using animals after PETA asked then–Defense Secretary Les Aspin to intervene.
"Clearly there are precedents for troops to learn food procurement survival skills without having to use live animals in abhorrent training drills that risk the spread of pathogens and disease," Shalin Gala, PETA's vice president for international laboratory methods said in a statement.
“For the sake of our troops, public health, and animals, we urge you to immediately ban the use of live animals in Cobra Gold and instead use more effective and ethical non-animal training methods,” Gala said.