Animals at War

I like animals. Very much. I have a dog (Oliver), a snake (Sidney) and a Xenopus Clawed Toad (Gollum) who is at least 25 years old. The snake and the toad do not, to be honest, do very much. But I’m pretty sentimental about them. Oliver is a dog and dogs – being pack animals – are capable of forming relationships with humans premised upon a reciprocity of affection. I love him very much.

That said, isn’t this just absurd:

This is the new Animals At War memorial: an imposing structure in the middle of Park Lane, to commemorate the sacrifice of “the millions of animals which have been killed in conflict while serving their country”. It was opened last week by the horse-like Princess Anne and funded – as far as I can tell – entirely by the Animals In War Memorial Fund, a cause to which the increasingly dotty Jilly Cooper donated the proceeds of her book, also called “Animals In War”.

I’m not really sure what the thinking behind the monument is. The Animals In War website states:

They had no idea why they had been drawn into our conflicts and acted solely out of loyalty and love.

That strikes me as possibly true in a limited sense, but unlikely in most cases. Dogs may act out of loyalty and love to their trainers, which they regard as part of their pack. Dogs are not noted for their understanding of abstract concepts, and so do not manifest altruism or self-sacrifice in any meaningful sense. Donkeys, by contrast, move forward because the donkey in front of them is also moving foward, and because they are being hit. They may have performed important roles in battles, and died, but their deaths do not have the same moral significance as the death of a human.

The monument itself says:


which is also true but trivial. Granted, the same could be said of conscripts. However, the important distinction is that choice is the essence of what it means to be human. Our choices are important to us: and so to die as a conscript has a particular moral significance. Not so with animals.

We might as well have a memorial to the millions and millions of chickens who met their end in boxes of Dallas Fried Chicken. They too had no choice.