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No drinking of snake blood at this year’s Cobra Gold military exercise, PETA says



Photo via PETA

The controversial practice of decapitating snakes and pouring the blood into soldiers’ mouths is apparently no longer part of the jungle survival training for US and other foreign troops at Thailand’s annual Cobra Gold military exercise.

PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has been calling for an end to the snake blood exercise and the killing of live animals at the US co-sponsered Cobra Gold, which they say is more like a “frat party” than military training.

PETA released a statement this week saying the US Marines had nixed the snake blood ritual after a “vigorous” PETA campaign where animal rights activists sent formal complaints to the top Department of Defense officials and held protests outside the Pentagon, the Royal Thai Embassy, and the home of the US secretary of defense.

While no official statements from the US Marines or the Royal Thai Army have been released, PETA says a representative from the Thai armed forces confirmed that no snakes, lizards, or any other animals were used or killed in this year’s Cobra Gold military exercises in Thailand.

During the Cobra Gold exercise, Royal Thai Marine instructors teach US and other foreign troops jungle survival skills. The drinking of cobra blood is a way to hydrate when there is no drinkable water, but videos of the exercise make it out to be a big event, decapitating the snake and dripping the fresh blood as soldiers crowd around the headless snake with their mouths open. The snake is then grilled up to eat.

The Thai military trainers also teach troops how to remove venom from scorpions and tarantulas before eating them. They also teach how to find water in jungle vines and how to identify what plants are edible.

PETA says US Marines and instructors at last year’s exercise were recorded killing chickens with their bare hands, skinning and eating live geckos, consuming scorpions and tarantulas, and decapitating snakes to drink the blood. All of those acts violate the US cruelty-to-animals laws, according to PETA.

In PETA’s statement, the organisation’s vice president, Shalin Gala, said “PETA exposed the fact that forcing service members to eat animals alive and suck down cobra blood is dangerous, cruel, and likely illegal.”

“Such frat boy–style barbarity needs to be relegated to the history books, and this year demonstrates that no animals should ever again be used at Cobra Gold events.”


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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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