At the Vets: The animal victims of war: don’t let them be forgotten

Sunday’s Remembrance Day helps us reflect how lucky we are; paying our respects to those brave heroes who fought for us in every bloody battle, conflict, and terrible war.
Newly adopted rescue dog CiaraNewly adopted rescue dog Ciara
Newly adopted rescue dog Ciara

But who considers those poor animals that helped bring us peace?

Did you know that just before World War II was declared, a government pamphlet led to a massive cull of British pets?

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In fact it’s estimated that as many as three quarters of a million adored pets were destroyed in the first week of war alone.

In 1939 the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) told owners to either take their pets into the countryside or ‘have them destroyed’; basically persuading the public that putting down the family pet was both patriotic and humane, resulting in more food rations for humans.

The Government sent out agents to watch animal rights activists, sponsored a clandestine anti-dog hate campaign and even made ‘giving your cat a saucer of milk’ a criminal offence.

Pets weren’t offered shelter either. Panic-stricken people flocked to vets requesting healthy pets were put down.

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That night, distressed animals cast out by their owners roamed the blacked-out streets, and five days of mass destruction followed.

London Zoo was also decimated. Black widow spiders and poisonous snakes were killed, as were a manatee, six Indian fruit bats, seven Nile crocodiles, and two alligators; a pair of lion cubs were destroyed too.

However while some animals were killed, others were being drafted into war, as the Army encouraged families to give up their beloved pets to send overseas into combat.

Elephants, dogs, cats and pigeons, all helped in the war effort, playing a vital role in every region of the world for human freedom, with millions paying the ultimate price.

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So this Sunday please think about them, or when you’re next in London, take time to visit the moving Animals in War Memorial on Park Lane remembering all the four legged and winged soldiers that served and died alongside British forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.

Their contribution must never be forgotten. They didn’t volunteer. They had no choice.