U.S. Marines who drink cobra blood during jungle survival training at the yearly Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand are at risk for zoonotic disease, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Monday. File Photo by Markus Castaneda/U.S. Navy
April 27 (UPI) -- A Thailand-based military exercise in which animals, including cobras, are killed and eaten raw puts service men and woman at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Monday.
Cobras are beheaded and Marine initiates drink their blood during survival training at the annual Cobra Gold jungle survival military exercise.
The training also includes "killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos and consuming live scorpions and tarantulas," the animal rights group said in a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Participants in the training are at risk of contracting animal-transferred diseases from wildlife, such as COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, monkeypox and Lassa fever, PETA said.
The group said killing live animals is unnecessary and was removed from survival training in 2011 at the Bridgeport, Calif.-based Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center.
"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.
About 4,500 military troops participate in the Cobra Gold military exercises yearly including military personnel from from the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
Drinking cobra blood during joint jungle survival training is seen as building camaraderie.
"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 U.S. has with Thailand," U.S. Naval Capt. Ryan Poitras said in a press release.
PETA cited the emergence of COVID-19 in Chinese wet markets and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research showing that 75 percent of new infectious diseases in people originate in animals.
"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 method," Gala wrote.