Animal rights group PETA wants answers from the Army after learning a company commander offered his soldiers $100 during a field exercise to hunt and kill a wild pig.
"Soldiers used a Ka-Bar knife attached to a stick to stab the pig, after which they repeatedly hit the pig's head with an entrenching tool, sliced the pig's throat with the Ka-Bar knife, and cut apart the pig's body parts that were sealed in bags and later thrown into the wild," according to a letter from PETA, which cites information received from a whistleblower who contacted the group.
The letter, dated Jan. 14, was addressed to Col. Richard Fromm, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. The issue is being handled by the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the higher headquarters of the unit involved.
PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, went on in the letter to call on the Army to investigate this "troubling matter" concerning "apparently illegal activity at Kahuku Training Area."
PETA is calling on the Army to investigate an incident last June where soldiers in Hawaii allegedly killed and mutilated a wild pig.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of PETA
The incident in question took place June 29 and involved soldiers with the 552nd Military Police Company, led by Capt. Jonathan Kuhn, confirmed Master Sgt. Matthew Davio, a spokesman for the 8th TSC.
An Army Regulation 15-6 investigation took place shortly afterward, and Kuhn was "counseled for failing to uphold unit and Army standards," Davio said.
"He was reprimanded in person and in writing on Oct. 27, 2015," Davio said.
The formal memorandum of reprimand from Col. Duane Miller, commander of the 8th Military Police Brigade, was not put into Kuhn's permanent file, but it could be reflected in his evaluation, potentially putting his career "in severe jeopardy," Davio said.
Kuhn, who took command in December 2014 and remains in command of the 552nd MP Company, was not available Wednesday to speak to Army Times.
No other soldiers were disciplined in connection with the incident; Kuhn took full responsibility for what happened, Davio said.
Kuhn is accused by PETA and the whistleblower, who also spoke with Army Times, of offering his soldiers cash in exchange for killing the pig.
"He said if someone went out and killed a pig, he'd give them a hundred bucks," said the whistleblower, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some of the soldiers took it as a joke, while others saw it as a chance to earn some quick cash, the whistleblower said.
"Some soldiers went and tracked a pig, killed it with a dagger," the whistleblower said. "It was still alive, so one of the soldiers took an e-tool and bashed it over the head a couple times to put it out of its misery."
The whistleblower said Kuhn was surprised when he learned that some of his soldiers went through with the deed.
"He said, 'holy shit, you guys really did kill a pig,'" the whistleblower said.
The whistleblower, who claims to have witnessed the killing, said several soldiers began to take pictures of the pig. Kuhn later told them to delete all of their photos and ordered them not to talk about the incident, the whistleblower said.
Soldiers allegedly killed a wild pig using a Ka-Bar on a spear and an entrenching tool.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of PETA
Later in the evening, after it was clear the bet was off, two soldiers took the pig and started cutting it up and putting the pieces into plastic bags, the whistleblower said. The bags were later discarded.
"We were told to keep our mouths shut and not say anything about it," the whistleblower said. "I didn't say anything for a long time, but this isn't right. As a company commander, how do you get away with doing these kinds of things? What are you thinking?"
The Army's 15-6 investigation revealed that Kuhn "had, in fact, made a comment similar to the one that was alleged," Davio said.
"The evidence showed the Capt. Kuhn's comment was an unfortunate attempt at humor that was misconstrued and taken literally," Davio said. "The result was the unlawful killing of a wild pig in the training area. Capt. Kuhn did not pay $100 because his comment was not a sincere offer of transaction."
The Army was not able to determine the exact details of the pig's treatment as described in the letter from PETA, Davio said.
Feral pigs are considered an invasive species in Hawaii, but they also are a game species, which means hunters must have a permit to hunt them, said Jim Cogswell, wildlife program manager in the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural ResourcesDivision of Forestry and Wildlife.
Penalties for hunting without a license, according to state law, can range from future denial of a hunter's license, a fine, or, in extreme and rare cases, jail time, Cogswell said.
Army regulations prohibit "uncontrolled or unscheduled outdoor recreation activities within the range complex," Davio said. This means the soldiers were not allowed to hunt in the manner that they did when they killed the pig. There also are no approved hunting programs on the Kahuku Training Area, where the incident took place, and the use of government equipment, including weapons, is strictly prohibited for hunting or tracking sporting game, Davio said.
In addition, the training area is enclosed in pig fencing designed to keep out the wild pigs, he said.
"They're an invasive species, and they're generally considered to be destructive," Davio said. "It's very rare to encounter wildlife of that size and nature out there on that training range."
In light of this incident, the 8th MP Brigade is looking to add in its range control briefings a section about not harassing or harming the wildlife, Davio said.
"They will take the lesson learned by Capt. Kuhn and apply it to everyone so it doesn't happen again," he said.
Miller, the MP brigade commander, also is writing a response directly to PETA, Davio said.
Kuhn's actions "are not in keeping with the leadership and training policies of the brigade," Davio said. "Our profession demands leaders of character who treat people and the environment with dignity and respect, which clearly was not demonstrated in this isolated incident."