Armistice Day, but not for the animals

Armistice Day (or Remembrance Day) and we remember the millions of victims of the Great War and other wars. On some occasions, due attention is given to the millions of animals employed during wartimes and who were killed by bullets, shells, gas attacks or who died of deprivation or starvation. Horses and dogs were used for transport, cats to control the abundance of mice and rats in the trenches and pigeons used as messengers. Animals were also used as experimental subjects for munition, gas masks or bullet proof clothing. Animals as cannon fodder.

Mules in WWI, photo via internet, The Donkey Sanctuary
Mules in WWI, photo via internet, The Donkey Sanctuary

Probably the most forgotten victims are the millions of wild animals who were exterminated as pests (the rats in the trenches) or the animals whose habitat was totally destroyed by the violence of war (at least those who survived the bombings). How it must have confused and bewildered the migratory birds flying over the thundering frontline. And as many soldiers returned home shell shocked or with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) I suspect millions of animals were similarly traumatised by the violence of war. And then also the countless domesticated animals being eaten and seized by the occupier to supply the troops.

From the battlefield to the slaughterhouse, does it make a difference for the animals? Their suffering is ongoing, it’s still war for them.

On November 11, 1918 the machine guns remained silent. But no peace came for the animals. Today, billions of animals still die and suffer in the hands of humans, for food, entertainment, as experimental subjects, because humans destroy their habitat or because they are considered a pest or nuisance.
From the battlefield to the slaughterhouse, does it make a difference for the animals? Their suffering is ongoing, it’s still war for them. Hopefully one day, they will have their armistice.

Stuffed horse, Exibition Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres (2012)
Stuffed horse, Exibition Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres (2012)
Cow in trenches, WWI, photo Exhibition Ysertower, Diksmuide (2013)
Cow in trenches, WWI, photo Exhibition Ysertower, Diksmuide (2013)
Use of animals during war, Exhibition Yser Tower, Diksmuide (2013)
Use of animals during war, Exhibition Yser Tower, Diksmuide (2013)
dead animals market place Ypres, April 1915, Photographer Anthony
dead animals market place Ypres, April 1915, Photographer Anthony
dead rats, Exhibition Death Trenches (Dodengang), Diksmuide (2013)
dead rats, Exhibition Death Trenches (Dodengang), Diksmuide (2013)
Tribute to the use of horses , probably during WWI, photographer  Mark Caen
Tribute to the use of horses , probably during WWI, photographer Mark Caen
pig and German soldiers, WWI
pig and German soldiers, WWI
Death Trenches (Dodengang), Diksmuide
Trenches of Death (Dodengang), Diksmuide

 

 Originally published on our Dutch blog: Wapenstilstand, maar niet voor de dieren.

 

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Denzil says:

    Thanks for this interesting post. I have linked to it on my blog.

  2. Dirk B. says:

    Thanks. Great post. A fitting tribute to animals on this day. Is there a website or institution that is keeping track of the estimated numbers of animal victims in various conflicts around the world?

    1. brugesvegan says:

      I haven’t found a database with a general overview of all animal victims worldwide.
      There’s a facts sheet from Animal Aid with some statistics: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/images/pdf/factfiles/poppy.pdf
      And they also have a purple poppy, to commemorate animal victims of war: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/living//2256//

  3. Jim M. says:

    This–and other tragedies–should be more well known. The living world does not exist solely for human uses. There is a growing number of animal studies scholars in universities around the world, and this subject needs their exploration.

  4. chrissy says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you x

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