PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has strongly condemned the U.S. military’s use of dolphins and sea lions in the Iraq war to help clear underwater mines.

Sgt. Andrew Garrett trains bottlenose dolphin ‘K-Dog’ armed with camera in Arabian Gulf

About 100 dolphins and sea lions are helping U.S. troops clear shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf to ensure safe passage for vessels, including those that will provide humanitarian relief, reports the London Evening Standard.

The dolphins use a small camera strapped to their fins.

“The team works in both deep and shallow waters, looking for mines and marking them. Dolphins have been used like this by the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years, and have proved themselves more reliable than robots,” said a Pentagon spokesman.

Toothbrushing in well deck of USS Gunston Hall

Unlike robots, the spokesman said, the dolphins neither run out of power nor have problems communicating from the seabed.

The Smoking Gun posted PETA’s statement decrying the use of the animals:

Our troops deserve the best defense possible, but PETA opposes the use of dolphins, sea lions, or any other marine mammals. The project is cruel and cannot provide a reliable defense or surveillance for our troops. The Navy claims they are not putting these animals in harm’s way, but they’ve removed these animals from their homes, relocated them to foreign waters in the Persian Gulf, and are forcing them to not only inspect the waters, but to actually swim up to potential terrorists under the water, clamp a cuff on their leg, and deploy a floating marker. How can anyone say these animals are not being put in harm’s way?

The bottom line is that dolphins cannot provide a reliable defense. These are living beings with minds of their own, and though they are incredibly intelligent, they have no idea that lives will be lost if they fail to perform tasks properly. Yet, the military wants to rely on the actions of these animals in order to protect our troops. Our troops deserve the best defense possible and this isn’t it. The animals and our troops deserve better.

The dolphins are part of a multi-national team consisting of U.S. Naval Special Clearance Team-One, Fleet Diving Unit Three from the United Kingdom, Clearance Dive Team from Australia and Explosive Ordnance Disposal units. The mammals are stationed aboard the USS Gunston Hall.

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