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Animals were the ‘true victims’ of WWI war machine: They unnecessarily died by the millions, from disease, exhaustion and enemy fire

An estimated 10 million horses and mules, 100,000 dogs and 200,000 pigeons were 'enrolled' and died in the war effort.

ELAINE GANLEY: ‘They were messengers, spies and sentinels. They led cavalry charges, carried supplies to the front, and died by the millions during World War I. Horses, mules, dogs, pigeons, even a baboon, all were a vital — and for decades overlooked — part of the Allied war machine. An estimated 10 million horses and mules, 100,000 dogs and 200,000 pigeons were enrolled in the war effort, according to Eric Baratay, a French historian specializing in the response of animals to the chaos, fear and smells of death in the mission that man thrust upon them.

World War I marked the start of industrial warfare, with tanks, trucks, aircraft and machine guns in action. But the growing sophistication of the instruments of death couldn’t match the dog tasked with finding the wounded, the horses and mules hauling munitions and food or the pigeons serving as telecommunications operators or even eyes, carrying “pigeongrams” or tiny cameras to record German positions… Indeed, gas masks were fitted to the muzzles of four-legged warriors braving noxious battlefield fumes…

Horses are ancient warriors, but most of those conscripted during World War I weren’t war-ready. They died by the millions, from disease, exhaustion and enemy fire, forcing the French and British armies to turn to America to renew their supply. A veritable industry developed with more than half a million horses and mules shipped by boat to Europe by fall 1917, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission… “So the war business in horses and mules is good,” read an article in the December 1915 issue of The Santa Fe Magazine… Good for the farmer, contractor, supplier and railroads, it said, but “not good for the animals”.’ SOURCE…

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