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Posted on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Protesters deliver petition protesting use of animals in Survival Flight training to Mary Sue Coleman's office

By Juliana Keeping

Staff in University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman's office got a surprise visit from a small group of protesters this afternoon.

A member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and two U-M students walked into the Fleming Building, 503 Thompson S., past a front desk and toward the U-M president's office before being blocked by a staff member, who shut the door and said Coleman wasn't in.

Instead, the group delivered its message and a box containing a 100,000-signature petition to Erika Hrabec, Coleman's assistant.

PETA is waging a months-long campaign against the use of pigs and cats in U-M’s survival flight training for nurses. PETA wants U-M to use human simulators, which it claims are more modern and effective, instead of animals.


Drew Winter, a PETA member from Lansing, delivers signatures to Erika Hrabec, an assistant to University of Michigan Mary Sue Coleman. Zach Goldsmith, a graduating senior, wore a cat costume to protest the use of cats and pigs in a Survival Flight training course.

Photo by Juliana Keeping

PETA member Drew Winter, of Lansing, did the talking during the confrontation, reading a written statement to Hrabec condemning the use of animals in the Survival Flight course.

Graduating senior Zach Goldsmith wore a cat costume.

Akshay Verma, a U-M student and a member of U-M's Michigan Animal Rights Society, called the use of animals "archaic" after the presentation.

"I came here because I don't believe in using animals for experiments," Verma said afterward.

Winter said the signatures were gathered online and in person. He did not know how many of the signatures were from Michigan residents.

The use of live tissue trains nurses to do procedures such as insert tubes down patients’ throats in difficult conditions. There is no substitute, the school says, for these and other lifesaving techniques taught in the course. The animals do not feel pain during the procedures because they are under anesthesia. Cats are adopted out, and pigs euthanized, after being used for training.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Akshay Verma

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

We are still discussing this because the use of animals in the course is unnecessary. ER surgeons are not even trained using animals. Why should survival flight nurses? Emergency room surgeons are under an equal amount of pressure. There are alternatives. Survival flight nurses could go through similar training as surgeons if that was really required for the work that they do. Time and money (which may not even be a factor) is no excuse to harm and kill healthy animals that do not benefit from these procedures. Juliana clearly has a bias, since she did not full report what U of M or I said. I realize this is a lab and not an experiment. The gross injustice is that it is not necessary. In addition, U of M's own statement does not say that all the unnecessarily injured cats are adopted out. It says most. All of them may have been this year. In any case, harming them and the pigs benefits no one. Many concerned students, including the MSA, which passed a resolution against the use of animals in this course, have addressed this issue politely in business attire. The problem is that the President does not really care what we think. Akshay Verma, non-member of PETA but a concerned U of M Student.

Akshay Verma

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Ah, I reread your comment. We are really still discusses this because the power that be are stubborn. Nonetheless, what I said holds true.


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

Why are we still discussing this? U of M, utilize the information available to you and make the wise choice. This is a no brainer and yet you persist on harming animals. That is disgusting.

Dog Guy

Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

Fundraising Theatre


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Mr. Demsky, please address and refute (assuming you can) the information provided by the links in Mr. Goodman's comment. The information in your comment above does not do so. If you actually have a persuasive case, then refute the information. Otherwise, your comment simply comes across as defensive PR material. Thanks in advance.


Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

How can they expect to be taken seriously wearing animal costumes? A business suit would be more appropriate and less likely to cause the target of their protest to giggle. Maybe I'm just old fashioned that way.

Ian Demsky

Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

Here are some facts at glance about U-M's use of animals in our Survival Flight training program: *The Survival Flight training program's mission is to ensure flight nurses are fully prepared to provide the highest level of life-saving care to patients during a medical emergency. *Out of 160 hours of training for each nurse, 158.5 hours are conducted using simulators, while only 1.5 hours in the surgical skills lab require the use of animals. *Though we look forward to the day when we can phase out animal use completely in our Survival Flight training course, we don't believe mechanical simulators are adequate for ensuring our nurses develop the level of surgical skill required to perform their duties effectively. *Until simulators improve, we will continue to train our nurses using animals so that the first time one of our professionals employs one of these life-saving techniques it isn't on someone's spouse, parent or child during a medical emergency. *The training uses a small number of animals - 3 cats and 12 pigs in 2010. *The animals are fully anesthetized during the procedures and feel no pain. *The cats are not harmed and are adopted out afterward. The pigs are euthanized while still under anesthesia - which is not the case for millions of pigs raised for food each year in the United States. *The plastic breathing tubes used to intubate the cats are the same flexible tubes vets commonly use for household pets undergoing spaying, neutering or other surgical procedures. They are also the same type of tubes used to intubate infants whether in an emergency or while undergoing routine surgery. A more detailed statement can be found here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Ian Demsky, University of Michigan Public Relations


Sat, Apr 30, 2011 : 6:36 a.m.

so 12 pigs needlessly died to train your staff? At leas they died without pain? Is that really your argument? how about training your staff on humans who volunteer. I bet you could get them and I KNOW it would be more realisitc as humans are what you purport to work on. How about putting them under then training your staff/


Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 8 p.m.

If the technology is there, use it. It is pretty clear the technology is there and has SUPERIOR results. Do do less, is immoral for future human patients and for the abused animals..

Kurtis S

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Just to clarify from someone who works in the medical simulation for the past 6+ years, there is NO product that simulate real flesh accurately YET!!!!!!!!

Justin Goodman

Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

Simulators save animals' and humans' lives. The University of Michigan's Graduate Medical Education Committee already determined in 2009 that simulators were superior to the use of animals to teach the trauma training skills covered in ATLS, which are the exact same skills pigs are still used for in the Survival Flight course: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> UM now likes to ignore this. And UM's claim that simulators aren't suitable for flight nurses in particular is preposterous, especially in light of the fact that the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Association--the national organization representing flight nurses--approves the use of simulators to replace animals for this training and confirmed last fall that most facilities offering this training use simulators instead of animals: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> A trauma surgeon from Northwestern University wrote an excellent letter addressing these issues in yesterday's Detroit News, too: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> UM's Survival Flight course uses animals because of one faculty members' personal biases that are rooted in archaic tradition, not because its the most effective way to train nurses. People can read more at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Justin Goodman PETA