It’s bad enough what happens to our own sons and daughters, let alone the families of the “enemy” in whatever war we humans happen to be fighting at any given moment.
But on this Memorial Day, let’s also give a thought to the millions of animals we conscript into our wars – and still do. In the U.K., there is now, at least, a memorial to them.
The Animals in War memorial was unveiled in 2004 in London’s Hyde Park. It consists of a wall symbolizing the arena of war and covered with images of animals. Two bronze mules, laden with battle machinery, are climbing the steps to the wall, and behind the wall a horse and a dog are seen gazing into the distance.
One of the inscriptions reads simply “They had no choice”:
The numbers of animals wounded and killed in war defy comprehension.
At the end of the American Civil War, 600,000 humans had been killed, and the South was declared the loser. But the real losers were the horses: more than a million horses and mules had been killed in the war – a clear victory of humans over horses.
And by the end of World War One, 484,000 of the million horses and mules taken to war by the British alone were dead. And it’s estimated that the Germans lost about two million horses, four times as many as the British. In France alone, during the four years of war, 2,563,549 horses and mules were taken in to veterinary hospitals.
See our Special Feature: When Animals Are Drafted.