PETA urges Pentagon to end ‘Havana syndrome’ animal testing

PETA urges Pentagon to end 'Havana syndrome' animal testing

HAVANA, March 13 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging the Pentagon to ban all weapon-wounding tests on dogs, cats, marine animals, ferrets, and monkeys to determine the health effects of the mysterious “Havana syndrome” on humans.

The animal rights group wrote a letter Monday to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of the U.S. Army Christine Wormuth, urging them to renew a previous ban on the weapon-wounding tests.

“In 2020, the U.S. Army — in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s ‘Policy 84’ — apparently reversed its position by permitting ‘the purchase or use of dogs, cats nonhuman primates or marine mammals to inflict wounds upon using a weapon for the purpose of conducting medical research, development, testing or evaluation,'” said PETA’s science policy adviser Maggie Wísniewska.

PETA’s letter called out last year’s $750,000 contract with Wayne State University to irradiate ferrets with a radio frequency to study the health effects of the so-called “Havana syndrome,” a mysterious ailment that seemingly has affected some U.S. U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Havana, starting in 2016.

“We again urge you to renew the ban on weapon-wounding tests on dogs, cats, marine animals and nonhuman primates and to no longer permit the wounding of any animals with weapons for medical research, development, testing or evaluation,” Wísniewska wrote in the letter.

Weapon-wound testing was banned in 1983 when former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger prohibited the shooting of dogs and cats in wound labs after PETA exposed the practice and campaigned for it to end.

PETA is demanding the ban be renewed, arguing the military is exposing monkeys to “pulsed microwave radiation in a misguided attempt to determine human brain effects associated with an acquired neurosensory syndrome, commonly referred to as ‘Havana Syndrome.'”

The syndrome’s medical symptoms, which range from ringing in the ears to cognitive difficulties, have been reported by U.S. diplomats and military personnel overseas. The first cases in 2016 were reported by U.S. officials in Havana, who complained of neurological problems including headaches and loss of balance.

Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said it is “very unlikely” the syndrome was caused by a foreign foe but was more likely caused by other factors such as “pre-existing conditions, conventional illnesses and environmental factors.”

In urging the Pentagon to stop testing, PETA argued Monday that any data retrieved is irrelevant because of biological differences between the species, including “brain anatomy, behavior, life-span.”

PETA also demanded other non-animal wound research methods be used, including the study of healthy brain tissue from human patients undergoing decompressive surgery.

In its letter, PETA accused the USAMRDC of hiding its use of weapon-wounding tests after the animal rights group said it filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March of 2022 for photos, videos, and other documentation.

“Instead of embracing transparency, USAMRDC chose secrecy, claiming the responsive record to our request is ‘classified…. in the interest of national defense or foreign policy,'” Wíniewska said.

“Taxpayers deserve to know what the U.S. Army is hiding by refusing to release details about its shocking weapon-wounding experiments on animals,” she added.