The British Army’s secret pig-murdering programme sure sounds like a joke.
For a start, it’s nicknamed Operation Danish Bacon. Second: It involves blowing up live pigs with explosives, and peppering them with AK-47s on a shooting range in Denmark.
But just as The Men Who Stare at Goats was based on real events, the British Army’s killing of farmyard animals in the name of battlefield training was recently revealed to be non-satirical.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted killing more than 28,000 animals for training purposes in the last three years using a variety of methods, including shooting, bombing and poisoning. This includes 115 pigs killed with explosives by U.K. forces from 2009 to 2012, according to Freedom of Information requests filed by the Daily Mirror.
Over 25,000 people have signed a petition on the campaigning site Care2, demanding the British and Danish governments stop the program.
British army medics apparently go on the secret pig-shooting expeditions in Copenhagen twice a year to practice treating gunshot wounds. Live pigs are strung up and peppered with bullets by snipers on a shooting range. The slaughter reportedly takes place in Denmark—not just because the name Operation Danish Bacon is morbidly funny, but because, according to animal rights group PETA, it would be illegal in the U.K.
PETA says 80 percent of NATO countries have outlawed harming animals for military training, and has filed a complaint against Denmark in the European Commission.
But a second Mirror story revealed the armed forces blowing up pigs with explosives—some with body armour—on British soil. The Mirror report claims that even if the pig is successfully saved during Operation Danish Bacon, it is still killed at the end.
In 2012 PETA, along with the filmmaker Oliver Stone, revealed how the U.S. military mutilates and kills more than 10,000 live animals a year in battlefield training exercises. PETA complained to the U.S. Department of Agriculture after a video was released showing goats having their legs cut off while they were still alive.
The MoD claims medics are developing state of the art techniques to save human lives. Many of the killings were a result of trying to determine the best way to treat blood clots after victims—in this case pigs—have suffered blast and gunshot wounds. The MoD claims all pigs are anaesthetized before being shot or exploded.
Animal rights activists urge the U.K. and Danish governments to abide by NATO conventions and use realistic human simulators instead of live animals.