ANIMALS never make war on each other for the purpose of acquiring land or taking revenge for an imaginary slight or simply because it makes economic or jingoistic sense. Only man does that. But he uses a large number of animal species in his endless desire for senseless violence. More animals die in every war than humans. But they are never counted as innocent bystanders or even collateral damage.
Look at the strange ways in which animals have been used to fight mans wars.
Dolphins are used in the U.S. Navy as part of the Navys Marine Mammal Program. They were used during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraq. These intelligent animals are trained to detect, locate and mark mines, suspicious swimmers and divers, and they operate as guards around naval bases in the US itself. If a dolphin finds an intruder he touches a sensor on a boat to alert the handler who places a strobe light or noisemaker on the dolphin’s nose. The dolphin pinpoints the intruder, so military personnel can take over. Sea lions, also locate and tag mines just like dolphins, but they also cuff underwater intruders. They carry a spring clamp in their mouths that can be attached to a swimmer or diver by simply pressing it against the persons leg. In fact, the sea lions are so fast that the clamp is on before the swimmer is even aware of it. Once a person is clamped, sailors aboard ships can pull the swimmer out of the water by the rope attached to the clamp. These specially trained sea lions patrol Navy bases, and were even deployed to protect ships from terrorists in the Persian Gulf.
Anti-tank dogs were used by the Soviet Union during World War II to fight German tanks. Dogs with explosives harnessed to their backs were trained to go under tanks when the dog was underneath the vehicle a detonator would go off, triggering an explosion and blowing up the dog as well. Many dogs were scared away by the gunfire and they would run back to the soldiers trenches. To prevent this, the returning dogs were shot by their trainers.
Homing pigeons were widely used by both American and British forces during World War II, and they are still used. In fact, the U.S. Army had an entire Pigeon Breeding and Training Centre at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the birds were trained to carry small capsules containing messages, maps, photographs and cameras. The birds even participated in the D-Day invasion of Europe because troops operated under radio silence. The pigeons sent information about German positions on Normandy beaches and reported back on the success of the mission. In fact, homing pigeons played such an important military role that 32 were awarded Britains highest award for animal valour. Pakistan claims that India uses them and we claim they do.
While thousands of elephants were killed in Indian battles and by Hannibals opponents during the Second Punic War, they were still used right up to the Second World War in Burma, to reach where machines could not go. Hannibal won one battle by throwing jars of snakes at his enemy, the king of Pergamon. The king freaked and fled with the rest of his army.
We still have camels in the army and BSF for patrolling Rajasthan. The Chinese used monkeys as live incendiary devices. The animals were clothed with straw, dipped in oil and set on fire. They were set loose into the enemy’s camp, thereby setting the tents on fire, and driving the whole camp into chaos. Remember Hanuman? Id hate to think that Rama used him like that.
The most widely used animal in warfare is the horse. Long before tanks, vehicles and planes, and even after them, the horse has been made to pull chariots or carry armoured riders. Horses and mules are still used extensively by armies today for transport in difficult terrain, including Afghanistan. The U.S. Army alone used about 571,000 horses and mules in Europe during World War I. 68,000 were killed in action.
Dogs were used by the Greeks to attack the enemy and later by the Spanish in South America. England used Great Danes to attack knights on horseback. They have been used in the thick of almost every battle as mascots, to locate wounded soldiers in World War I after fitting them with gas masks. In all armies, they are used for detecting mines, to spot trip wires and other booby traps, for sentry duty, and to spot snipers or hidden enemy forces.
Till today animal borne bombs are being used by terrorists and animal carcasses have been used to camouflage roadside bombs during the Iraq war. On land, giant pouched rats are being trained as mine detectors.
During the Spanish Civil War (19361939), pilots attached supplies to live turkeys which were thrown off planes and descended flapping their wings, serving as parachutes which could also be eaten as well. In India, throwing goats and chickens from planes was very common in the border areas. It was called Meat on the Hoof and it is only now that it has been stopped.
The Greeks and Romans used bees as weapons, catapulting beehives over walls during sieges. This was done right up to the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
Of course the most horrible way that the military uses animals remains secret. All weapons are first tested on animals; from bombs to biological, chemical, and nuclear agents. In chemical attack training exercises, thousands of monkeys and other animals are poisoned.
For years the U.S. Department of Defence (DOD) conducted so-called wound labs, during which conscious or semiconscious dogs and other animals were suspended from slings and shot with high-powered weapons to inflict injuries for crude medical training drills. While the military has now banned the use of dogs, cats, and primates in wound treatment experiments and training, it still uses goats and pigs . These are shot repeatedly, set on fire or have their limbs broken or amputated by heavy objects falling on them. Military cadets are then taught how to treat them and keep them alive. In 2012, PETA released undercover video footage leaked by a whistle-blower of a military trauma training course. In the video, course participants and instructors laugh and joke as live goats have their legs broken and amputated with tree trimmers, are stabbed, and have their internal organs pulled out. This is inspite of the fact that all scientists and army surgeons have repeatedly pointed out that these experiments have no value in training the troops, and that simulators are far more effective.
As late as 2014, following an internal review by the Department of Defence regarding its use of animals in medical training, the agency determined that suitable simulation alternatives can replace the use of live animals in six major medical educational areas including for trauma and other surgical training courses, and infant and pediatric life support skills. The agency also ordered all Service branches to fully transition to the use of simulations in these programs by no later than January 1, 2015. However this policy continues to allow thousands of animals to be used and killed each year for combat trauma training and other military medical exercises. I wonder how many animals are being used by our military in similar fashion.
How sad that we should use non-humans in our endless quarrels amongst ourselves.
–Animal rights and environment activist, Maneka Gandhi writes weekly column Heads & Tails for the Kashmir Observer. She can be reached at: [email protected]
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