Animal Aid

ANIMALS - The hidden victims of war

Battered dove of peace by Steve Hutton

A monument to animal suffering

In 2004, the 90th anniversary of the First World War, the UK will finally catch up with the rest of the Commonwealth countries by erecting a monument in Park Lane to honour all those animals who have suffered and died in warfare. The Animals in War Memorial Fund has raised the money for the bronze and stone sculpture, designed by David Blackhouse. (1)

A history of hidden suffering

It is often conveniently overlooked that animals are innocent victims of warfare. Throughout the history of human conflict, animals have been used as military tools for war. As far back as 3 B.C., Hannibal famously used elephants to help him in his campaigns. Since then there has been a continual use of animals such as horses, dogs, cats, pigeons, elephants and chickens in warfare.

In World War One, horses were used to transport goods, cats were kept in trenches to hunt for mice, and pigeons were employed to carry messages between ships at sea. Today, the use of animals continues, but the purposes to which they are put are ever more diverse.

Horses in battle

'Into Battle' Captain Julain Grenfall - Ypres 1915:

"In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours,
Before the Brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers;
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!"

Throughout history, horses have been used by troops in warfare. One of the wars in which they were most heavily employed was World War One.

Within a few weeks of the start of the War in 1914, the British army had acquired around 200,000 horses. These animals were brought together from the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, India, Spain, and Portugal. They were placed in squadrons and shipped out to the Western Front. Due to illness and death, the army had to purchase around 15,000 more every month to maintain the number of 'working' horses.

Horses carried ammunition, artillery, guns, and shells, as well as soldiers. It is estimated that the average calvary horse carried around nine stone of armoury and other equipment. Combined with the average weight of a calvary man this meant that the horses had to carry over 20 stone on their backs.

Mules were also heavily employed by troops in the 'Great War'. These animals are tougher than horses and so fared slightly better on the frontline.

On the Western Front, horses and mules were grossly underfed. They received less than a quarter of the amount of food that they would have been fed in Britain. Reports say that they were often seen trying to eat the wheels of carts because they were so hungry. When food was in really short supply they were fed sawdust 'cakes'.

Horse in WW1 gas mask by Steve Hutton

In World War One alone, around 8 million horses, mules and donkeys died.

On the frontline in Iraq

At least 75 dolphins and 20 sea lions have been trained and employed by the US Government for warfare. Having endured long flights in water-filled sleeves, they were on the frontline in the recent Iraqi conflict, unknowingly risking their lives for the troops.

Dolphins, referred to by the military as 'Advanced Biological Weapons Systems', have been used by the US military to search for mines since Vietnam. Their most recent task was to keep shipping lanes free in the Gulf.

Food deprivation

The dolphins are controlled through food deprivation. When dolphins are full, they are very difficult to 'control', as there is no incentive for them to return. So, when searching for mines, they are fitted with what are known as 'Anti-Foraging Devices' (AFD) - a piece of Velcro wrapped around their snout preventing them from opening their mouths and catching fish. This encourages them to return to base. If a dolphin does go AWOL, a 'recall pinger' is set off at a frequency that can be heard by the animals over long distances. If they return on hearing this, they are rewarded by having the AFD removed and being fed.

Using dolphins as military tools also endangers the indigenous dolphins in the area. Troops do not know which dolphins the enemy is using and which it is not. This means that they kill all that they find just in case. (2)

Sea lions have been used in recovery missions for the past 30 years. But the Gulf conflict saw their first frontline mission. Their task was to patrol for enemy frogmen.

The military's use of these animals is protected under national security exclusions. This means that the military can use the animals pretty much as they please and the truth about how they are really treated is difficult to discover.

Bomb and poison chemical detectors

On land, dogs are used as bodyguards and bomb detectors, and pigeons and parakeets as chemical sensing early warning systems for marines. Many of the birds die en route because of the stress caused by long journeys. The pigeons, who have replaced chickens as the preferred species for this role, have highly sensitive respiratory systems, which means that in the event of a chemical attack they would suffer and die before humans were affected.

However, military experts do not consider the birds to be as sensitive as the newly developed high-tech sensors which can detect gas clouds at least three miles away, so this barbarism cannot even be justified by those without concern for animal welfare.

The dogs of war

Even now, with the war against Saddam Hussein's regime over, there are still fears for the dogs who were used by the troops in the Gulf. In Vietnam, 5,000 dogs served with the American troops. Of these only 150 returned home. This was not because the rest died, but because they were left behind. Abandoned to fend for themselves in Vietnam. (3)

Abandoned to their fate

War also causes immense suffering for native animals caught in the middle of a war zone. Companion animals and farmed animals are often abandoned - either left in enclosures to starve or else to wander the streets scavenging for scraps. Animals cannot respond to air raid sirens and even those taken in by their human families have no comprehension of what is going on or why.

In modern warfare, 'smart bombs' dropped by the troops may have been programmed to avoid hospitals, schools and other civilian targets (sometimes far from successfully), but such considerations do not extend to areas where animals are located. They are trapped; sitting targets.

In recent years, we have seen the horrific plight of animals trapped in zoos in war torn states. In Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the zoos were the sites of fierce gun battles. After the conflict, animals were left to starve in their enclosures. During the recent Iraq war, 300 animals went missing from Baghdad's main zoo. Many were taken by thieves, others left to wander the streets. (4)

Rescue mission

Thanks to the World Society for the Protection of Animals ( and the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad ( there is hope for these innocent victims of war. In the aftermath of recent conflicts they have mobilised veterinary task forces to travel around the affected regions, helping farmed animals, companion animals and abandoned zoo animals who are starving and in desperate need of veterinary attention. (5)

Primate on toxic barrels by Steve Hutton

'The Atomic Ark'

The animals used in military experiments have no prospect of relief, even in peacetime. These experiments are nothing new. In 1946 near Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific, 4000 animals, including sheep and goats, were set adrift in a small boat on the sea. An atomic blast was detonated above them so as to gauge the effects of such an attack. All were either killed or badly burned in the experiment. The military referred to the test as 'The Atomic Ark'. (6)

Laboratory experiments

Blasted, shot, poisoned, infected, mutilated...

In the middle of the scenic Wiltshire countryside lies Porton Down, the UK's leading weapons research centre using animals. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, thousands of animals are subjected to experiments every year, and the numbers are growing. Since it opened in 1916, millions have suffered agonising deaths within its high security fences.

Sheep, goats, mice, rats, guinea pigs, monkeys, dogs and cats are currently used to test the killing power of biological and chemical weapons and the effectiveness of their antidotes. They have also been subjected to blast attacks and small arms fire. Pigs have been left with massive pendulous blisters after mustard gas experiments. Guinea pigs are driven to uncontrollable defecation and convulsions after being exposed to the poisonous gas soman. Dogs have been reduced to shivering wrecks thanks to riot control agents.

The list of suffering is depressingly long. It continues despite overwhelming evidence that the results from such tests cannot be reliably applied to people because of crucial biological differences between different species.

Gulf War Syndrome

The troops also betrayed

Although most of the work carried out in Porton Down is top secret, we do know that since the first Iraqi war it has also become the focus for research into Gulf War Syndrome, having first subjected hairless guinea pigs and then marmosets to a range of pointless torments. Although the American Government acknowledged the existence of the syndrome in 1994, the British Government still refuses to do so. However, in May 2003, a tribunal in Britain ruled that a serviceman suffering from osteoporosis could attribute his illness to drugs administered in preparation for the first Gulf War. (7) In the same month, British soldiers were reported (The Independent, May 26, 2003) to have fallen ill as a result of multiple vaccines - all of them passed safe after animal tests - that were administered prior to the most recent Iraqi conflict.

The Government has previously admitted no complete records were made of the vaccines and anti-chemical/biological warfare substances given to troops before the first Gulf War. Nor were any centralised records kept of the symptoms afflicting veterans when they came home. Yet the authorities insist that it was vital to have tested these substances on animals - tests that supposedly 'proved' they were safe.

Shocked to death

In the USA things are just as bad. At Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, there is a flight simulator called a 'Primate Equilibrium Platform'. This comprises a platform that rocks and rotates simulating the movement of an aircraft. Monkeys are strapped into chairs on top of it. In front of them is a control stick that can be used for returning the surface to a flat position. The monkeys are trained to use the stick to level the platform. During this 'conditioning' they receive thousands of shocks until they learn how to operate the stick. The suffering lasts for days. Then comes the misery of the actual experiment. The monkeys are subjected to lethal doses of drugs, poisonous gases or radiation. The platform continues to oscillate and the monkeys are expected to use the stick to keep it level whilst they are suffering from the nausea and vomiting caused by the toxic substances they are given. If they do not comply they are subjected to more electric shocks. (8)

Under G.W. Bush things are set to get worse. His so-called war against terrorism has turned into a war against animals. Three more animal laboratories will be added to the existing five that are researching different aspects of bioterrorism.

Total control means no resistance

In the future, animals face the further threat of being turned into hybrid 'cyborgs'. This is done by implanting electrodes into the brain. Scientists can then control them through these electrodes, in a manner similar to a remote control car. Regardless of the amount that the animals will suffer, they will be helpless to resist the commands. This is no science fiction fantasy. US scientists have already created what they call 'Roborat' - a creature they describe as 'a radio-controlled automaton'. They have suggested that the Roborats could be used to clear landmines in the future. (9) And this is only the beginning. Unless those responsible are resisted, research will lead to more elaborate ways of manipulating animals' bodies for use as tools in human warfare. This will cause even more suffering to helpless animals in the name of war.

Dolphin and dogs by Steve Hutton

What you can do

Spread the word by writing to your local and national newspapers.

Take part in radio debates broadcasting the truth about war's impact on animals.

Write to the Ministry of Defence voicing your disgust at the thousands of barbaric animal experiments that take place every year at Porton Down. Email - make sure that you email your postal address or else they will not respond to your email enquiry - or write to The Ministerial Correspondence Unit, Old War Office, Whitehall, London SW12 2EU.

Order and distribute copies of Animals: the hidden victims of war.

Click here for the War Animals index, which includes the PDF version of this report.


  2. Interview with Ric O'Barry (former Flipper trainer) with Animal Rights Online
  4. 'Nothing stops Baghdad zoo looters, except lions' Reuters, April 22 2003
  5. WSPA & SPANA April 24 2003, News Release - 'Rescue team on standby to help animal casualties of the war in Iraq'
  6. Regan, T 1985, 'We are All Noah'
  7. The Independent May 6 2003. 'Gulf War Syndrome soldier wins claim'
  8. Singer, Peter 1990, 'Animal Liberation' p.25ff
  9. New Scientist May 4 2002, 'Say hello to the Roborat'

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