Today, PETA sent an urgent letter to Secretary of the Department of Defence Greg Moriarty urging him to demand that the organisers of the Cobra Gold joint military exercises held annually in Thailand – involving thousands of military personnel from around the world, including Australia – permanently replace the use of live animals in food procurement survival exercises with more effective and ethical animal-free training methods.
During Cobra Gold 2020, participants were recorded killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos, consuming live scorpions and tarantulas, decapitating cobras and drinking their blood, and otherwise revelling in the ritualistic killing and consumption of animals.
In its letter, PETA points out that the use of live animals during Cobra Gold poses a risk of spreading zoonotic diseases akin to COVID-19, endangering Australian troops and the wider public. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals” – including the pathogens that cause COVID-19, Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS, smallpox, tuberculosis, and other well-known diseases. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, likely originated in bats and was transmitted to humans via contact with an intermediate animal host.
“Shipping military personnel to Thailand to drink the blood of beheaded snakes is the kind of absurdity that could spark the next pandemic,” says PETA Campaigns Adviser Mimi Bekhechi. “The crude killing of animals during this annual drill not only risks public health and endangers species vulnerable to extinction, including the king cobra, but also disgraces our troops.”
PETA further notes that this training exercise – which is marketed as a food procurement drill, but which officials have admitted is intended to build camaraderie among troops in a manner resembling a barbaric hazing ritual – could easily and safely achieve its goals through other means that don’t involve causing animals to suffer and die.
PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group’s letter is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.au.