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Animals At War

September 1, 2014

That’s the link to a book I recently read, about this amazing dog who went to Afghanistan as a service dog, sniffing out explosive devices. He had quite a nose and was invaluable, so good at his job that the Taliban targeted him, recognising the threat that he was to their operations. Luckily they didn’t get him, but he had 2 very narrow escapes, due to the incompetence of the bomb makers. He was decorated for his services with the Dickin medal – the Animal VC – and now lives in peaceful retirement with his ‘Dad’ – Dave Heyhoe who wrote the book.

I laughed many times, reading this book. I also cried – especially when Sasha, another service dog, was killed by a Taliban sniper. She was even better at her job than Treo, and posted to Inkerman, which was an even more dangerous place than Sangin, where Treo was.

The animals who get mixed up in our wars  – they make me weep. They have no idea what is going on, they are innocents in the midst of hell. I think of the horses slain in the mud on the battlefields of the past – very high casualties in WW1. I think of the animals in the places that we bomb, pets, domestic animals, wild creatures  – their homes devastated, their lives shattered, many injured, many killed, and I weep. I am more sad for them than for any of us, except the children  – equally unaware, equally vulnerable.

Is it right to use animals in war? There is no doubt Treo saved lives, it is why he was decorated;  he did, to perfection, what he was trained to do and played a big part, along with countless other dogs, in disabling the Taliban war machine and preventing huge casualties, both of troops and Afghan civilians.

Treo had a close bond with Dave, they were inseparable. He loved his work, he thought it was all great fun. Many dogs seem suited to this kind of thing. I suppose we have bred them to be just like that, so that we may use them. Is this right?

I don’t know. All I know is that war is a futile, senseless, waste of life and wrecker of the landscape and it costs billions of dollars and any other currency you can mention, to repair its ravages.

Is it right to train dogs to lead the blind, help the deaf and disabled, herd sheep, seek out lost people, attack intruders, find drug stashes? Is this not ‘use’? Where does legitimate employment of other animals become exploitation and abuse of them for human benefit?

I have read so many stories, over my lifetime, of animal courage and animal companionship and the invaluable help they have been, especially dogs, and I wonder that we repay them so badly by leaving so many dogs languishing in shelters, whilst breeding more puppies, all for money. I wonder whether it is not cruel to ride horses – why would they want to be harnessed, wear iron shoes and have someone on their backs guiding them where to go – controlling them? Because we have always done so, because we can, and they can do nothing about it, does this mean that we should?

Why have we got animals imprisoned in zoos all over the world, elephants in shackles working in forests, hauling tree trunks, dolphins and killer whales shut in tanks in amusement parks and aquaria, countless millions in the farming sector, waiting to die for our dinners?

Is this not ‘war’? A war against Nature, a war against the defenceless, a war against all the non humans of this world who we oppress, just because we can, and have always done so, and have never questioned it.

I am no longer a believer in God, especially the one in the Bible who seems to have ordered so much genocide in the past and, according to most Christians,sanctions the eating of animals. I dislike this God, He seems very much made in the image of the war mongering, carnist human male. ‘ See the conquering hero comes, sound the trumpet, beat the drums’. No,this is not the way we should be – conquerors and plunderers, oppressors and destroyers. Humans are animals at war with each other and with all Life on this planet. 

Nothing will change until we decide it. Who is responsible for the misery and suffering in this world? We are,all of us. We all play our part, we all keep it going. We kill animals for food, we release violent energy into our world. We eat it and we play it forward. And the wars go on.


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