Animal Aid

ANIMALS IN WAR - The unseen casualties

Posted 1 June 2003
A scene of devastation from the last gulf war. Credit: WSPA/Paul O'Driscoll

The following article is reproduced from the Summer 2003 issue of Outrage - Animal Aid's quarterly magazine which is sent to all Animal Aid members. To find out more about joining Animal Aid click here.

At the time of going to press, the most intense fighting of the war in the Gulf had come to an end, though there were still numerous casualties. Yet while there is at least some effort to set up aid for the innocent human victims, there remains one group of blameless casualties who scarcely merit a mention on the 24 hour saturation news reports. This war, like all others, has been steeped in animal misery and there is no international humanitarian movement to ease the suffering.

The incessant bombing of Iraq must have been terrifying for animals. Chickens, cats and dogs in the street are unable to respond to air raid sirens, and even those who are taken in by their human families can have no comprehension of what is going on or why. Also, farm animals have been abandoned by fleeing people, left to starve in their enclosures. Camels and sheep were moved away from their homes in the pastures of Kuwait to a filthy compound in Kuwait City. Animals in zoos have been starved to death or stolen by looters. 'Smart bombs' dropped by the coalition 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 in Iraq. They were trapped, sitting targets.

Military tools

The coalition troops also used animals as military tools. Around 75 dolphins and 20 sea lions have been trained in the USA for warfare. Having endured long flights in water-filled sleeves, they were on the frontline, unknowingly risking their lives for the troops. Dolphins have been used by the US military to search for mines since Vietnam and are currently also employed keeping shipping lanes free in the Gulf. For sea lions this was their first military mission. Their task was to patrol for enemy frogmen.

On land, dogs were used as bodyguards and bomb detectors, and pigeons and parakeets as chemical sensing early warning systems for marines. 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. 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.

Warfare research

It is not only during wars that animals suffer from weapons. In the middle of the scenic Wiltshire countryside lies Porton Down, the UK's leading research centre for warfare. Here, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, thousands of animals are subjected to experiments every year. 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. Though most of the work carried out is top secret, we do know that since the last Iraqi war it has also become the focus for research into Gulf War Syndrome, subjecting first hairless guinea pigs and then marmosets to barbaric experiments that are scientifically bogus as well as cruel.

Over in the US, things are worse. George W. Bush's so-called war against terrorism has also turned into a war against animals. Plans have been announced to add three more laboratories to the existing five that are already using animals to research different aspects of bioterrorism.

Animals don't drop bombs. Neither do they produce chemical weapons or killer viruses. Because we do, why should they suffer?

Take action

  • Read our new booklet, Animals: the hidden victims of war, and then order and distribute as many copies as possible.

  • 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 public@ministers.mod.uk - 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.

  • Join Animal Aid and support our work for the protection of all animals.

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