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PETA demands Marines stop drinking cobra blood, eating live animals

It turns out decapitated cobras are not the only ones unhappy with Marines drinking their blood.

So, too, is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, an animal rights organization that sent a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David H. Berger denouncing “the crude killing of animals during the annual Cobra Gold 2020 military exercise.”

“The photos showing giddy Marines swallowing scorpions and guzzling cobra blood are more reminiscent of a frat party gone wrong than a military drill,” Shalin Gala, vice president of international laboratory methods with PETA, said in a press release.

“PETA is calling on the Marine Corps to take immediate action to replace this barbaric exploitation of animals with cutting-edge, technology-based survival training courses that will better prepare troops.”

Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, March 2. (Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall/Marine Corps)
Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, March 2. (Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall/Marine Corps)

The letter cites a story from the Daily Mail, which included accounts of how service members “learn to de-fang tarantulas before eating them, as well as consuming lizards and other creatures indigenous to densely forested areas” during training.

The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cobra Gold is an annual, multinational exercise sponsored by Thailand and the United States, which features more than 5,500 U.S. personnel alongside service members from multiple countries.

The largest joint military exercise in southeast Asia, Cobra Gold is in its 39th year, and this year’s components include exercises in cybersecurity, amphibious assault, combined arms live fire, and humanitarian assistance.

Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spiders fangs during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, Mar. 1, 2020. (Sgt. Nicolas Cholula/U.S. Army)
Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spiders fangs during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts during exercise Cobra Gold 2020 at Ban Chan Khrem, Chanthaburi, Kingdom of Thailand, Mar. 1, 2020. (Sgt. Nicolas Cholula/U.S. Army)

Of course, jungle survival training from Thai military instructors is included, and as Stars and Stripes notes, these "sessions are among the most photographed events during the exercise.”

Thai-led survival training includes drinking cobra blood, killing chickens, eating geckos and consuming live creatures native to the jungle as part of survival preparedness.

Referenced in the letter from PETA to the Marine Corps is a 1993 decision from the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground and a 2011 decision from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center to suspend its use of live animals in survival training.

PETA instead recommended “more effective non-animal training options, including interactive video games with food procurement components” to replace the current training.

A U.S. Marine eats an herb as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold at Ban Chan Krem, Feb. 14, 2019, in Chanta Buri, Kingdom of Thailand. (Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg/U.S. Marine Corps)
A U.S. Marine eats an herb as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold at Ban Chan Krem, Feb. 14, 2019, in Chanta Buri, Kingdom of Thailand. (Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg/U.S. Marine Corps)
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