"Most obediently and often most painfully they died – faithful unto death."
Today is not National Barbeque Day. Today is Memorial Day, and I hope you can spare a moment of thought for those who have served. Whether or not we personally agree with the justifications behind any given conflict, we should take time to recognize those who fought in them. Today there will be many ceremonies honoring the humans who have fought in America's wars. I'd like to take a moment to honor the animals (and especially the horses) who gave their lives, and continue to give their lives, in conflicts all over the world.
Over a million horses and mules were killed in the American Civil War. In WWI, Britain alone sent over one million horses to war and 484,000 of them were killed, one horse for every two men. Most of the survivors were later butchered for meat-- only about 63,000 returned home. In WWII, the Russians alone used 3.5 million horses in the war. And yes, horses continued to be used in war today, even by the USA, in missions like that of the Horse Soldiers in Afghanistan.
Horses have endured everything soldiers have-- and were bigger targets. Animals from glow-worms to pigeons to elephants have been forced into hellish conditions because the human world around them demanded it. Even when animals aren't actively serving the military of any given country, they are often among the first civilian casualties. They are the first to be abandoned, and the last to be given food and shelter.
Take a moment to think about the sacrifices animals have made for us, and read a few of the links below.
- "They Had No Choice." - Inscription on the Animals in War Memorial, Hyde Park, London, England. Here's a good article on the memorial's dedication and the importance of those animals.
- Read my blog from last year about Civil War reenactment horses-- lots and lots of pictures here.
- Egyptian horses formerly used to give foreign tourists rides are now starving because of the conflict there. Go here to help.
- Here's a list of famous/beloved horses of the Civil War.
- One favorite battle horse, "Old Baldy," had his head stuffed and mounted after surviving 14 wounds and a dozen major battles in the Civil War.
- A touching article on the horses and mules of WWI. Did you know that mules were often pressed into the hardest duties because of their stamina and ability to endure cold and heat? Their vocal cords were sometimes cut to stop them from braying loudly.
- Britain was the first country to seriously take up the cause of animal welfare, and began the Blue Cross in 1897. It is still active today. They began a drive to help horses injured in WWI- picture gallery here.
- "Hampshire's Real Life War Horses Remembered." Nice video from Britain.
- "Traveler" is one of my favorite books. It's the story of the American Civil War from the perspective of Robert E. Lee's horse, Traveler. The book was written by the same guy who wrote "Watership Down." (Remember the rabbits?)