I've just finished reading War Horse by Michael Morpugo. I have to say that it was a brilliant book. The story is inspirational and moving. The characters intriguing and identifiable. The message clear and strong. All in all an excellent book. A portrayal of our debt to our four legged friends.
What is shocking is what happened at the end of the war and the fate of the brave horse who fought alongside their masters during a gruelling world war.
They you see, were not brought back and paraded through the streets as heroes. They are not remembered each year by a grateful nation on remembrance Sunday. They have no graves or memorials or even proper mentions of their plight.
This is because they were sold. Auctioned off in France. Many finding that their war story ended in a French slaughter house. That's the honour they were bestowed. That's where after all their hard work they ended up. That's how the army big wigs valued them when it came down to it.
These were the same horses which were said to be the saving grace of endless tired battalions of men. They took water, guns and ammunition to the front line. Fearlessly trudging towards no mans land amongst gun fire, shrapnel and carnage.
They brought back the sick, the wounded and the dead. Often making several trips a day though mud and danger.
Above all else they brought a glimmer of hope and affection to men and boys who had been kept away from home for far too long fighting a battle over which they had no power or desire.
They too should be held up for their outstanding bravery. The part they played was considerable and impressive. Without them the war would probably have been lost.
Thats not to say that horses didn't suffer a similar fate on the other side also. For both sides they were invaluable. They were treasured at the time. So how could they be so quickly discarded?
The fact is that humankind have an opinion of superiority. We as a race feel that we are better than the animals who share our earth. For us they are a commodity to be traded, used and then discarded.
The army officials making the decision that they were to be sold were not on the front line. They did not see the hardships endured for the benefit of the nation. They were removed from the situation. It wasn't their horses that weren't coming home after all...
They felt that they were able to make a decision to trade the horses. They thought not of their fate and if they did, then they didn't care.
This attitude is played out time and time again.
The comedian Ricky Gervais is currently battling to prevent the expansion of a dog breeding 'factory'. The dogs being bred are to be used in vivisection. They are being created simply to be destroyed. Who are we to make such decisions about the life of another being? The objective of course is money. The drugs trade is a multi billion pound industry. They simply want a cheap way to test their new drugs so that they can be marketed as safe. So that people feel 'safe' buying them. But what of the sacrifices made to achieve these objectives?
Gervais has received lots of tweets in support of the protest. Lots. He has also received some that are directly against the prevention of such a facility being expanded. One man tweeted that it was because an animals life is not as important as that of a human. Who are we to play God and make such arrogant suggestions?
My point is that we are guilty of constantly abusing the assistance that we are given by our four legged furry friends (and our 2 legged winged ones too!). If it were not for them we would not have guide dogs, cart horses, mining canaries and many more useful roles which they fill.
We should rejoice in their ability to handle tasks, which we are often unable to do. We should not underestimate the influence that they have had over our lives both in the past and present.
The dogs being bred at the facility could easily be trained to be sight/hearing/mobility dogs or even companions for the old, sick or lonely. Why create their life simply to destroy it?
We live in an age now where none of this is necessary. Their are other methods which could be used to achieve the same purpose. Sure they cost more in terms in monetary value but surely their is nothing more valuable than life itself?
We should always be mindful of the sacrifices made by all other living things to enable us to live our lives.
Its estimated that 6 million horses were used in World War 1. These were shipped to battle from all corners of the globe. In Britain, pet and farm horses were requisition for the cause. Often taken from the families that had loving cared for them for years.
Few of those returned to their countries of origin. Some were left to wander around no mands land until they were claimed by starvation and exhaustion. Many as i've mentioned were sold for meat at the sadness of their mounts.
Many more horses have of course been used and lost in conflicts both bfore and after the first world war. Its easy to highlight the plight of the WW1 horses as it was the first time that tanks largely replaced the cavalry and therefore the loses were greater and more instantaneous.
I for one will be forever thankful for the sacrifices of the war horses. They will be remembered as they should be. As heroes.