EXPOSED: IDF's secret experiments on animals

In three-year period, Israel's defense establishment used more than 1,000 animals for tests that included the effects of explosions and weapon blasts on their bodies; former army officials, animal rights groups call for end to practice

Yoav Zitun|
Israel’s defense establishment, including the IDF, has in recent years conducted experiments on hundreds of animals, including dogs, goats and sheep.
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  • In the past three years, the military and other security agencies operating under the Defense Ministry have been conducting experiments on nearly 1,000 different animals for the purpose of medical training and weapons development.
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    ניסויים ב בעלי חיים ב צה"ל
    ניסויים ב בעלי חיים ב צה"ל
    (Photos: Shutterstock, IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    A large number of the animals were either killed or harmed at the conclusion of these experiments, which are being carried out under the auspices of a high level of security classification that deters transparency on this controversial matter.
    The data from the Defense Ministry obtained by the Let the Animals Live organization through the Freedom of Information Act refers only to the experiments conducted between 2017 and 2018.
    The Defense Ministry said that data on experiments that carried out in the past year and a half has "yet to be transferred to the Health Ministry.”
    The list of experiments for those two years alone includes experiments on 40 dogs, 25 goats, 10 sheep, 154 pigs, 25 guinea pigs, 160 fat sand rats (rodents of medium size), 10 mice and 186 rats.
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    A fat sand rat
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    According to information supplied by the Health Ministry, the levels of animal suffering in these trials ranges from level 2 (mild and temporary discomfort) to level 4 (potential for causing pain, suffering or moderate discomfort, persistent disruption in the general condition or normal activity of an animal).
    Nonetheless, none of the ministry levels, not even the highest, includes killing animals during an experiment, as happens in IDF procedures on live pigs. This omission casts doubt on the reliability of the Defense Ministry data.
    The IDF and the Ministry of Defense refuse to disclose the purpose of the experiments, saying only that some are performed during training by IDF doctors and paramedics for the purpose of saving human lives.
    "All experiments are supervised and carried out with the approval of the Council for Experiments on Animal Subjects at the Defense Ministry," the army and ministry said.
    Despite the decline in the number of animals used in experiments - but not in the number of species - animal rights organizations, along with some within the IDF itself - have criticized the fact that despite significant technological developments in recent years, alternatives are not yet used.
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    חולדה במעבדה
    חולדה במעבדה
    Illustrative: An experiment on a rat
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    These alternatives include advanced sensors, sophisticated mannequins, simulators and monitoring devices that allow officials to examine the effects of explosives and weapons blasts.
    According to information obtained by Ynet, some animals have been used to simulate multi-casualty maritime incidents.
    Pigs are most widely used for medical experiments during military training, due to the similarity in heart structure and respiratory tract to that of human.
    The new information is backed up by a report published two years ago by Ynet, which revealed that the IDF Medical Corps kills pigs as part of its training course.
    When asked whether it exports animals abroad for military experimentation, the Defense Ministry said that due to security restrictions, “it is not possible to say if the defense establishment imported or exported animals for the purpose of experimentation.”
    Israel's various defense branches have previously conducted experiments on the impact of a shock wave or a powerful explosive on an animal’s body.
    "To claim that using these animals is intended only for life-saving training in the IDF is a smoke screen and lie," a former IDF officer who underwent medical training told Ynet.
    “In medical training around the world, including the most prestigious universities, smart dolls have long been used,” says the former officer.
    “There are other animal experiments that are cruel and are therefore hidden from public scrutiny."
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    לוחם מיחידת הכלבנים מכוון אקדח ונמצא בפעולה עם הכלב שלו
    לוחם מיחידת הכלבנים מכוון אקדח ונמצא בפעולה עם הכלב שלו
    An IDF soldier with his canine partner
    (Photo: Gadi Kablo)
    The Let the Animals Live organization called for full transparency in order to protect the animals that have been forced into experimentation.
    "It's time to reveal what's going on in the animal testing industry," the group said.
    "The lack of transparency guarantees that the animals used in the defense establishment are suffering greatly. The released levels of suffering indicate a violent and unnecessary death for hundreds of animals who never sought to participate in such experiments.”
    The group also says there are widely available, effective alternatives to animal testing.
    “It is time for the defense establishment to set an example and adopt research methods that do not involve unnecessary suffering for innocent animals," the group said.
    The IDF said in response: "The IDF makes little use of animals in medical research and targeted training. The use of animals is under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian and in compliance with all procedures prescribed by law, including a proper certification process guided by the Council for Experiments on Animal Subjects at the Defense Ministry.”
    Military officials added: "The use of animals is intended to give IDF medical staff surgical training for life-saving procedures only, as is customary in the medical world."
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    חזיר חזירים
    חזיר חזירים
    (Photo: AP)
    The Defense Ministry said: "The Defense Ministry's Council for Experiments on Animal Subjects operates in accordance with the Animal Welfare (Animal Protection) Law of 1994.
    "The council reviews requests for animal experiments in the defense establishment in accordance with the law, which states that animal experiments are permitted for the purpose of advancing health, treatment and prevention of suffering, advancing scientific research, testing or production of materials or objects, education and teaching.
    "The animal experimentation approved by the Council for Experiments on Animal Subjects sometimes includes an animal's death, during or after trials, when death is intended to minimize an animal’s pain and suffering - and everything is carried out in accordance with the law."
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