Animals: the Hidden Victims of War

Posted on the 1st July 2006

This month, the Imperial War Museum in London launches The Animals' War - an exhibition commemorating the animals who have died in worldwide conflicts. To coincide with this, Animal Aid has produced a brand new booklet - "Animals: The Hidden Victims of War".

Where others celebrate the bravery of animals, we remember the reality: that animals are victims, not heroes of war.

From Hannibal’s historic campaign using elephants in Roman battles to ‘Roborats’ – rats with electrodes wired into their brains by scientists keen to harness their acute sense of smell – animals have suffered throughout history in human conflicts.

Valued for their outstanding abilities and forced into wars not of their making, animals have often been treated as little more than disposable tools, kept alive only for as long as they are useful, and then killed or abandoned to fend for themselves.

In Animals: The Hidden Victims of War, we remember the animals used as messengers, in detection, scouting and rescue, as beasts of burden and on the frontline. We remember the animals taken from the wild and used as mascots, for companionship in the trenches and all those who continue to be subjected to warfare experiments in laboratories.

We reveal that many animals have been abandoned and others purposefully killed when no longer considered useful. In 1914, for example, the head of the Belgian Pigeon Service burnt 2,500 pigeons alive, rather than risk them being captured and used by the enemy. And not even elephants – much lauded for their intelligence and dignity – could be assured of human loyalty. Used in ancient military campaigns to carry soldiers into battle and more recently to carry equipment for bridge and road building, elephants have long been sacrificed in war. In Hannibal’s attack on Italy in 220BC, just one of the 37 elephants survived the cold and in the Second World War, the British deliberately bombed elephants who were being used by the Japanese to transport packs.

This concise booklet contains fascinating information and astonishing, heart-rending photographs.

Read "Animals: The Hidden Victims of War"

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