A former senior official who was part of the committee that approved controversial cases of animal experimentation in the IDF stands behind his decisions: "certain things can't be tested without using a living creature... Not all experiments were approved," Ynet news reported on Sunday.
Hundreds of controversial cases of animal experimentation in the IDF have recently been exposed by Ynet and may shed a light on the covert capabilities that the IDF is currently developing for use in the battlefield and during sensitive operations.
The experiments point at other purposes for animal experimentation rather than medical training, such as the use of pigs for simulating field surgeries. The IDF is looking for ways to not only protect the lives of its combat soldiers and to improve their protection, but also to develop and improve existing capabilities, like its Oketz Unit, a canine special forces unit, according to Ynet.
According to the reports by Ynet, the Israeli security forces conducted experiments on at least 10 dogs in the past three years. A former senior officer from the IDF Ground Forces told Ynet that "when it comes to experiments on dogs, they usually focus on developing new methods of either fighting or operating with them," and gave the example of using dogs for sniff-tests: "Approaching a Palestinian vehicle, for instance, without insulting its passengers, because Islam consider dogs an impure animal."
The senior officer continued, "the animals are not being manipulated. The research has clear objectives and there's no way that a dog would ever be killed in an experiment. The animals are used in an educated way, without exposing them to danger."
However, animal rights organizations have raised concerns regarding the committees that is responsible for approving the experiments on animals and claimed that hiding information about the approval process of experimentation harms their ability to ensure the protection of animals and the minimal infliction of damage required.
According to different testimonies by soldiers who took part in such experiments, animals are, in fact, put to death and some are severely injured from shock waves during testing of special explosive devices.
"We were testing protective means against chemical burns for soldiers... and some experiments tested the body's reaction to biological weapons and nerve gas," according to Prof. Arye Eldad, a retired brigadier general who was part of the approving committee for animal experimentation and approved several experiments himself during his time as chief medical officer in the IDF. "When I approved these tests there was no replacement for experimenting on animals," he told Ynet, and added that "even today, in the field of burns there is no other model that can examine the reaction of a living body to different materials or chemical burns."
One experiment that was approved by Eldad in the past tested the air conditioning system in the Merkava tank, after concerns were raised regarding the system's function during a fire or a direct hit by a missile.
"No other model could have simulated it... I don't know a different model, like a computer program, that can examine reactions to certain burns," Eldad said while pointing out that "certain animals have skin that resembles human skin."
Eldad did note however, that he believes that some models can actually replace using animal experimentation, such as models for testing material reinforcement: "There are things that I couldn't check in any other way 30 years ago. But when we reached the possibility of tissue cultures for example, we could test them through different models."
Regarding the transparency of the experiments and the process of approving them, Eldad said that "some research can be published and some can't," and added that he doesn't know for certain how the committees operate today but that during his time, they "couldn't approve exposing or publishing an experiment without causing some damage."
"We didn't approve all requests for conducting experiments, but I can't recall the ratio of approvals," he concluded.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit responded to the allegations by stating that animals are barely used in the IDF for medical research and training purposes, and that when they are, the process is carried out under the supervision of a certified veterinarian and according to the regulations set in the law.