How War Effects Animals

“The street dogs, howling in terror were the most accurate indicator of an impending air raid on Baghdad”

Shocking fact: At the beginning of WW2 in the UK pet owners slaughtered 750,000 of their animals – pet owners where told that their pets would not be allowed in air raid shelters

The world is in turmoil with wars raging and the constant threat of war including a nuclear war. How many people have died in conflicts is astronomical in number.During World War 1 military and civilian casualties were more than 38 million: there were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded,    World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history with over 60 million people killed, which was over 2.5% of the world’s population. In more recent conflicts including Vietnam, a protracted civil war of over twenty years, 2 million civilians on both sides and some 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters were killed. The U.S. military has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war. The Syrian conflict as taken the lives of 470,000  -55,000 children

How many animals died in these conflicts? How about the recent MOAB , the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat, dropped by the USA in Afganistan on what was described as a tunnel complex, which was far from a civilian populated area but which could have nonetheless killed many animals in addition to the human lives taken. No one knows or cares how many animals died in the one mile blast zone?  The following animals are indigenous to Afganistan and include more than 100 mammal species, some of which are nearing extinction. The most seriously endangered are the goitered gazelle, leopard, snow leopard, markor goat, and Bactrian deer. Other wild animals of Afghanistan include Marco Polo sheep, urials, ibex, bears, wolves, foxes, hyenas, jackals, and mongooses. Wild boar, hedgehogs, shrews, hares, mouse hares, bats, and various rodents also occur.

How many of them were killed? Of course all these species may not live in that particular area.  How about rats a likely inhabitant of tunnels, but who cares about rats except rats of course?  What about insects? Sadly few care about insects, is it because they’re tiny or is it as a result of a common innate phobia which many of us share. Yes it is not easy to avoid killing insects and in some cases doing so is a matter of survival, mosquitoes for example, however they’ re casualties of war nonetheless, an insects life is important to the insect. Ever watched an insect struggle for survival if he accidentally falls in water. All creatures have the will to live, for all beings life is precious.

The affects of war on the other species with whom we share this world is rarely considered. The death toll of these innocent bystanders or enforced participants is staggering and in addition to death their suffering is significant.

Stop for a moment and consider the following

World Wars One and Two resulted in unimaginable loss of life for humans, many of whom just like animals were innocent bystanders or forced participants. During these conflicts countless millions of animals died in an horrific fashion often callously murdered in the most cruel of ways or killed and maimed as a result of indiscriminate booming such as the case of the Dresden Zoo

This next article explains the horror that befell Dresden Zoo during WW2, a harrowing story of the suffering of these innocents confined against their will in zoos or farms.

All Creatures Innocent of Blame

“The bombing toll on domestic pets and farm animals is never spoken of, but it was a slaughter of momentous proportion. Horses burned alive at various stud farms or were simply let loose (see “Horses” on the East Prussia section of site), cattle were blown to pieces, sheep literally cooked in the fields and thousands of pets were lost, lamed, blinded, orphaned and even eaten out of desperation. For zoos it was hellish. Zoo animals were bombed or later slaughtered and plundered at war’s end. The few survivors starved or died of cold.

Famous animal trainer, Otto Sailer-Jackson ran the Dresden Zoo watched in horror as a wave of bombing set the zoo ablaze:

“The elephants gave spine-chilling screams. Their house was still standing but an explosive bomb of terrific force had landed behind it, lifted the dome of the house, turned it round, and put it back on again… The baby cow elephant was lying in the moat on her back with her legs helplessly reaching up toward the sky, suffering severe stomach injuries unable to move. The hippopotamuses were drowned when debris pinned them to the bottom of their water basin. In the ape house, a gibbon reached out to the trainer, only bloody stumps left of its arms. Nearly forty rhesus monkeys escaped to the trees but were dead by the next day from drinking water polluted by the incendiary chemicals. The next day, a U.S. aircraft pilot flew in low, firing at anything he could see was still alive… In this way, our last giraffe met her death. Many stags and others animals which we had saved became victims of this hero.”

Continue reading the complete article

This will shock you as it shocked me. During WW1 eight million working horses lost their lives, along with countless donkeys and mules. Also one million dogs and pigeons and other birds whose numbers are not known. During this war 16 million innocent animals with no say in or understanding of the matter were forced into war. During the  the battle of Verdun in 1916 7,000 horses died in one day alone.

Contrary to the article below they were not willing heroes in this form of human insanity.

The 9 million unsung heroes of WW1: Dogs, horses and carrier pigeons made victory possible:

“A 16 million-strong army of animals including mules, donkeys, cats and even camels was deployed – with the lives of 9m tragically cut short

“With less than 200 men from a 500-strong unit still alive, three messengers were sent on a perilous last-ditch mission to let HQ known their position. It was their only hope.

Two were killed at once. The third was hit too. But blinded in one eye, with a gaping chest wound and one leg hanging by a single tendon, the determined courier managed to struggle a further 25 miles and deliver the message before collapsing.

The plan worked. Allied bombardment ceased at once and 194 men from what became known as the US Army’s Lost Battalion were rescued.

What makes this heroic First World War story all the more astonishing is the fact the messenger was not a soldier. It was a female carrier pigeon called Cher Ami.”

Please continue to read the stories of these animals who although saved many lives were nonetheless exploited and used in a conflict that had nothing to do with them and about which they did not understand.

During more recent times animals are killed deliberately such as Soldiers retreating from Kosovo used cattle as target practice, spraying them with gunfire. Animals also continue to be exploited as service animals, dogs in particular who may even be euthanized after their days of use are over. Recently The UK army have euthanized dozens of dogs who have been put down due to being “old and worn out” after risking their lives serving the country. These dogs were not ill or injured but where simply not able to “carry out their duties” for the British Army. As many as 45 dogs have been killed in the last four years. Another 200 dogs where also euthaniased , these where dogs injured “carry out their duties”.  Hundreds of  these dogs served in Afghanistan and Iraq, sniffing out explosives or protecting troops.

Elisa Allen of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: “Dogs in military service are conscripted to risk their lives, they’re not volunteers.

“They should have their own Chelsea Pensioners home and, where possible, receive end of service care. For canine recruits who fail to reach a certain standard, a thank you is in order – not a lethal injection.”

Please continue reading this story:

Likewise the USA exploits dogs and other animals in its conflicts, 2,700 dogs on active duty in the American military

Obviously many pets, live stock and other captive animals have died in recent conflicts in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere. There are no records of these casualties. Animals caught up in these conflicts who know nothing of human hatred and aggression or the craving for power or wealth that drives this madness.

Both during a war and the relative peace which follows animals suffer horrendously as a result of land mines. There are reports of herds of elephants, cows and other animals being blown to pieces. As shocking a fact as it may seem hundreds of millions of land mines, even some left from World War2, are hidden from view in the countryside and roadsides waiting to kill or maim the unsuspecting child, adult or animal. Often their location is not known and with the exception of WW2 landmines are difficult to detect.  For both domestic and wild animals the death toll is as much as between ten and twenty times higher than it is for people. The live stock population of some countries has been reduced to half.

Even more shocking is the use of animals as triggers to clear roads and fields of mines, sheep in Bosnia and pigs in El Slavador. Cattle were pushed forward in Zimbabwe to detonate mines to clear the way for people to return to their villages and farms.

In some cases trained sniffer dogs have been used to detect mines. The ethics of this is debatable, in my opinion the animal has little choice and maybe does not understand the implications of his training and basically has no real choice in the matter. Giant rats are increasingly trained to detect mines because they’ re supposedly better at locating these hidden killers than dogs. In particular the African giant pouched rats who have extraordinary sense of smell. Apparently these rats are light enough to walk over the mines without setting them off, and use their noses to find the explosives quickly. While less awful the use of animals to resolve the problems created by humans cannot be justified. Animals have their own lives, they are not our servants or slaves. Nonetheless a better option than the use of sheep, cattle and dogs who would invariably be killed.

At Sea human conflict results in the death of hundreds of animals even when not located in a war zone. The sonar from navel war ships is killing hundreds of whales and dolphins. To escape the noise created by Sonar whales, dolphins and other sea creatures try to escape the sound and rise to the surface too quickly and die from decompression, more commonly called the Bends.

“While little is known about any direct physiological effects of sonar waves on marine species, evidence shows that whales will swim hundreds of miles, rapidly change their depth (sometime leading to bleeding from the eyes and ears), and even beach themselves to get away from the sounds of sonar.”

Read More about the effects of sonar on marine animals:

As already mentioned earlier, during times of war animals suffer terribly in zoos where they may be abandoned or worse.

One example is the Kabul Zoo in Afghanistan where grenades were thrown into cages, and the animals were left in misery.”

Below are examples of what happens to zoo animals during recent conflicts

Animals starved abandoned in a Syrian zoo.

“Right now animals are starving in a zoo in war-torn Aleppo

Amid the ruins of the civil war-ravaged city of Aleppo, Syria, are the remnants of what was once a zoo – and some animals are still there.

Two skeletal tigers, two bears and several monkeys have been trying to survive in their cages at the zoo known as Aalim al-Sahar, or The Magic World.”

Please continue reading:

Rescuing The Last Two Animal At The Mosul Zoo.

“Mosul’s forlorn little zoo, a collection of rusted cages in a park near the Tigris River, was abandoned by its keepers in October, as the Iraqi Army began to liberate the city from the Islamic State. For three months, the zoo was a staging ground for isis fighters. More than forty of the zoo animals died, either as collateral damage—trapped between warring combatants—or from starvation. By January, when the eastern half of Mosul was freed, only two animals had survived: Lula, a caramel-colored female bear, and Simba, a three-year-old lion.

Animals, like people, suffer from war psychoses, including P.T.S.D. During the most intense urban combat in history, Lula ate her two cubs from hunger and stress. Simba had been one of three lions. Simba’s father, weak and emaciated, was killed by his mate to provide food for herself and Simba. In the wild, lionesses hunt for the entire pride. She, too, soon succumbed.”

Read More:

Animals Starve to Death

“Two Hundred and Sixty-five animals were abandoned in war Torn Yemen to starve to death.

War births refugees. Streaming out of blasted-out cities, civilians are forced to flee their homes, sometimes their families, away from the bombs, into the unknown.

What happens when you can’t leave? That’s the story of abandoned zoos in wartime. It’s the story unfolding now for the animals in Yemen’s Taiz Zoological Gardens, neglected in the cross fire of the country’s civil war.”

Continue reading:

Yemeni zoo animals are starving due to ongoing civil war

“Campaigners urge the government to allow for the evacuation of animals from a zoo in Tiaz after 11 lions and six Arabian leopards reportedly starved to death”

Continue Reading:

Hundreds of dogs and cats were left to fend for themselves in war-torn Ukraine, in the city of Donetsk alone 800 dogs and cats depended on the courage of willing carers who risk death to help the beleaguered animals along with refugees.

Please read the full story:
Extreme Bravery from the Women Saving Ukraine’s Dogs of War

Bird migrations have been effected by war

It is not always the obvious casualties of war who are forgotten but the less well known, including birds who may suffer when their natural behaviours are disrupted. One such disruption is the migratory patterns of come birds.

War in Syria prevents bird migration

War has dire consequences for wildlife conservation and biodiversity,

“The negative impact that war has on the environment and wildlife is typically fuelled by a number of factors, including:

    •A breakdown in law and order, together with disruption of agricultural production and economic trade leads to a lack of income opportunities as a result;
    •A growing dependence on natural resources and wildlife (eg. wood for cooking, wildlife for food) due to lack of other options;
    •An increase in human movement through natural protected areas as a result of a mass exodus of refugees fleeing war torn areas or an insurgency of militants, all of whom require food and shelter;
    •An abundance of trigger happy militia armed with high powered automatic weapons and firearms makes unarmed wildlife an easy target and that much more vulnerable.”

Continue reading:

War and the Effect on Wildlife – The effect on wildlife is well explained in this article.


Stop Putting Down Healthy War Hero Dogs Just Because They’re “Old”

Did you know that the USA abandons its military dogs in conflict zones?

The US Military Euthanised or Abandoned Thousands of Their Own Canine Soldiers at the End of the Vietnam War

Animals should never be used for military purposes. Animals are unable to understand the political or moral implications of human conflict. Animals are not equipped to make a free-will choice to participate in such enterprises. For human beings to make use of them in those situations is exploitative and immoral.

This article took some considerable time to research and at the end I wondered why I had done so. The idea came shortly after the Americans dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan and I remembering thinking how many rats or other animals had died in the tunnels or in the mile wide blast zone. It  was the first time I had given any serious thought to the animal casualties of war with the exception of writing a piece once for another blog now no longer on-line about animals used in warfare in ancient times after seeing the film Alexander the Great. I was not prepared for the shock concerning the extent of the suffering of innocent animals during war-time. Frankly quite depressing in view of the continued massacre today of both human and non human animals in the pursuit of power and insatiable greed by the few while millions of people and animals die who neither understand or condone this, one of the greatest tragedies that befalls all living beings and one that seemingly will never end.

Related Links

People Are Actually Staying In A War Zone … So They Can Save Animals

Shelter lends helping paw to animal victims of Syria war

Too often, animals are the forgotten victims of war

Starved to death and left to MUMMIFY in the world’s worst zoo: Once proud animals including lions and crocodiles are now no more than horrifying ‘statues’ after carers had to stop feeding them

“By World War II the role of the dog had morphed into that of Kamikaze Canines. These anti-tank war dogs, intensively trained by the Soviets, carried explosives on their backs, the bombs then detonating upon their impact with German tanks. How do you get a dog to run underneath a tank and detonate a live bomb strapped to their bodies? Keep them hungry and hide food treats beneath enemy tanks. The training routine simulated war conditions, using real tanks with running engines. This made for a seamless transition during real-life battles. The training regimes though had disastrous results, killing many dogs and Soviet soldiers. During the simulated wars, dogs would get spooked by the tanks and run back to their human soldier companion, inadvertently detonating the bomb and killing both themselves and their master. To counter this, any dogs who were seen to be running back towards their human, to their perceived safety, were shot dead. Heart breaking. This Anti-tank dog regime continued until as recently as 1996.”

Continue reading, this is an excellent and informative article concerning the use of animals in warfare.

Military Menageries- they had no choice.

If you happen to travel down London’s Park Lane you may notice a striking landmark. Unveiled a few years ago to much ceremony, the Animals in War Memorial is a powerful tribute to the many animals in conflict that gave their lives in war zones of the 20th century. It’s a fitting memorial to some forgotten victims of war.

Source of some of the above information:

Animals in War

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