Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Unsung animal heroes' would choose life

There’s nothing fair or humane about it, but (non-human) animal involvement in human wars is practically a forever thing. The London memorial to Animals in War details and illustrates some of that, but only some.

Behind that monument was a book, Animals in War, by Jilly Cooper (c. 1983, 2000, 2002 [Lyons Press]), a Brit, who went on to help make the monument a reality.

A strange book, it’s not very well-written and its content is of course very painful to get through – even though Cooper reports a few stories that she, at least, finds humorous. (Somehow, the word “hilarious” seems wholly out of place in a book about how animals were widely conscripted and made to serve in the so-called Great War and World War 2, among others.)

The book includes chapters about horses, dogs, camels, mules, elephants, donkeys, mascots and domestic animals. Talk about “cannon fodder.” Cooper’s facts include how hundreds of thousands of animals died – in warfare, in related experiments, in mistakes and in fiendish decisions that were made. As usual, the animals had no say; their service was involuntary.

But, for the person unsure of the extent of animal deaths in war, or wondering about specific animals or specific campaigns, this book is the ticket. I’m glad to have finished with “. . . a book which will touch the heart of any animal lover,” according to one blurb.

To which I reply: A true "animal lover" would not let this happen to animals.

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