“If Girl Scouts could survive in the jungle without drinking snakes’ blood, eating live lizards, what’s wrong with U.S. Marines?”
It was the opening line to a February press release from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, sent by Media Manager Tasgola Bruner, sharing a petition by the animal-rights organization to stop what it calls “bloodlust” by the United States Marines.
Cobra Gold is an annual, multinational exercise sponsored by Thailand and the United States, featuring more than 5,500 U.S. troops.
But now PETA has taken it a step further and has announced PETA protestors will “descend on the Pentagon” on Thursday to demand Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III end the use of live animals in the annual 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."
The Marine Corps did not respond to a request for comment.
The Marines’ annual Cobra Gold exercise teaches what the Corps has said are survival techniques. A 2012 Marine Corps story explains that the education starts with Royal Thai reconnaissance Marines giving U.S. Marines lessons about the plants and vegetation in Thailand.
“U.S. Marines are taught which plants are edible, what medicinal properties they may possess and which plants to avoid,” the story said.
Then, they move to capturing wild animals in the region.
“Survival is a trademark of Cobra Gold,” then-Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, survival instructor with Reconnaissance Division, Royal Thai Marine Corps, said in the story. “It’s important that these combatants understand they will have to do things they have never thought of doing before in order to survive.”
Marines also noted that experiencing the culture of different nations is part of the experience, one that will help their ability to integrate and work together with partner nations.
But PETA says that’s not good enough, noting that Marines “skin and eat” live geckos, “chomp on” live scorpions and tarantulas, and “decapitate” cobras.
“A Girl Scout could figure out how to survive in a jungle without killing animals for practice, and so, too, should our military’s best and brightest,” PETA Vice President Shalin Gala said in a February press release. “PETA is calling on the Pentagon to do away with the bloodlust killing of animals during Cobra Gold, which sullies the honor of the Marines, risks public health, and endangers species that are vulnerable to extinction.”
It is unclear which specific Girl Scout training the press release is referring to, but this isn’t the first time PETA has gone after the Marine Corps. In 2011 the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, “suspended its use of live animals in its survival training courses” after talking to PETA, the organization claims.
The next Cobra Gold training reportedly has been delayed until August due to COVID-19 concerns.
It was last held from Feb. 25, 2020 to March 6, 2020, according to an Army press release.
Protestors will meet near the Pentagon checkpoint on North Rotary Road at noon, according to the Wednesday PETA press release.
Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times. On Twitter: _andreascott.