Woody Harrelson Fights Army Tests on Chimps

Oscar nominated actor goes to bat for PETA on testing Issue.

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Actor Woody Harrelson won an Oscar nomination for his intense portrayal of an Army captain in The Messenger and now he's got a real message for new Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno.

[See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]

In a letter sent to the Army on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Harrelson, of Cheers fame, is asking the general to halt the chemical warfare testing on monkeys at Aberdeen Proving Ground in northern Maryland.

"General, I urge you to stop this crude exercise at Aberdeen. I'm sure you agree that our military personnel deserve state-of-the-art training and that our country deserves to be respected for its civilized treatment of animals," writes Harrelson in a letter provided to Washington Whispers.

PETA has aggressively fought to end the animal testing and shift to simulators. Earlier this month, they protested at Army Secretary John McHugh's house in Alexandria, Va. [Check out editorial cartoons about the "Arab Spring" uprisings.]

In his letter, Harrelson also pushed for the use of simulators to show the impact of a nerve agent attack. "They are far more relevant to military medical personnel than poisoning monkeys in a laboratory and watching how their tails twitch and their paws sweat," pens the actor.

Delivering bad news was Harrelson's job in The Messenger. He played Captain Tony Stone and is part of the Casualty Notification Team.

Here is the letter:

Dear General Odierno,

Congratulations on your new post as chief of staff. I learned from PETA that the U.S. Army  will soon conduct outdated tests in which a nerve agent is injected into monkeys at Aberdeen Proving Ground.The monkeys forced through this procedure will suffer the wretched symptoms of chemical poisoning including seizures, breathing difficulties, loss of bowel control, and convulsions. In a laboratory worksheet that PETA obtained from Aberdeen, one student compared a monkey's violent reaction during the exercise to "a chiwawa [sic] shitting razor blades."

Because superior non-animal methods are used for this exact training by military and civilian programs around the world, animals are clearly not required to meet your objectives. Sophisticated human patient simulators can be programmed to mimic the human response to a nerve agent attack and used in various scenarios that actually recreate conditions in which such an attack on humans may occur. They are far more relevant to military medical personnel than poisoning monkeys in a laboratory and watching how their tails twitch and their paws sweat. There is even a video of all this that can be used if you really want to show how monkeys react to a specific nerve agent.

General, I urge you to stop this crude exercise at Aberdeen. I'm sure you agree that our military personnel deserve state-of-the-art training and that our country deserves to be respected for its civilized treatment of animals. Among PETA's members and supporters are physician, researchers, and other personnel including medical simulation experts at Harvard Medical School and other institutions - who can help facilitate this transition to modern, humane training methods.

Thank you. I look forward to some good news shortly.

Yours truly,

Woody Harrelson

  • See editorial cartoons about the Afghan war.
  • See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Middle East protests.