What is the impact of wars on wildlife and livestock?

If armed conflict is the action of men, it is truly the whole living world that is affected. While human losses are counted daily, their devastating impact on wildlife and the environment is very rarely mentioned, even when the conflict is over. In a report published on 20 June 2020, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) provides a quantified overview of the impact of wars on wildlife and warns of the need to adopt international protection measures to limit their effects. a time when biodiversity is already more threatened than ever by global warming.

Why measure the effect of conflicts on animals?

Who hasn’t seen these heartbreaking videos of people being forced to abandon their pets while fleeing the country on social networks? Like any armed conflict, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deadly consequences for wildlife, zoos, and livestock. Just one month after the start of the war, 3 million people had left the country, leaving 700,000 pets.

“Animals and humans, and even all living beings in conflict zones are victims of the same distress”, argues Azzedine Downes, CEO of IFAW in NGO’s report: “While it is essential and a priority to reduce the suffering of the human populations concerned, it is also important to recognize the impact of these conflicts on the living conditions of the animals and to take appropriate measures to remedy them. says the director.

>>> In kyiv, a shelter for animals that survived the war

Abandonment, destruction of flora, extinction and extinction of species

In fact, the NGO’s report highlights the many effects of wars and civil unrest in the short and long term. First, they systematically lead to a significant increase in the number of homeless animals, especially due to the abandonment and destruction of their habitats. Acts of cruelty, the rise of poaching and illicit trade, or the increased competition with human populations for access to basic resources such as water, also contribute to the massive losses inflicted on the animal world.

In its report, the NGO does not hesitate to rely on older conflicts in history to support its remarks with numbers. For example, during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the U.S. Army poured out Agent Orange to destroy the flora, thus exposing the Vietnamese countries that protected the separatists.

The toxic products or mines used against populations obviously do not spare the rest of the living world as they have (very) long-term consequences. In Vietnam, more than 40,000 animals were killed by unexploded ordnance in the twenty years following the victory of the Vietnamese people. Sometimes whole species disappear, which during the war between Iran and Iraq between 1980 and 1988, a period when wild goats, wolves, otters, pelicans or even dolphins disappeared, or even worse, have reached the point of extinction.

>>> Why is the Battle of Dien Bien Phu famous?

How many animals were killed during the world wars?

While it is of course difficult to count the actual number of wild and domestic animals killed during the two great wars, IFAW nevertheless managed to gather information showing the extent of some of these losses during the two world wars:

  • 1914-1918: World War I.

More than 16 million animals served as “animal soldiers”, in other words, they were used for warlike and strategic purposes by the various camps. Among them, 9 million were killed, including, of course, a large majority of horses, mules, and donkeys (8 million).

  • 1939-1945: World War II

More than 750,000 pets have been killed in the UK in a week after a public information campaign about their safety and food shortages. The German army on the eastern front lost 179,000 horses in two months.

What wildlife protection recommendations?

The report outlines a number of measures to be adopted at local, national and international level to compensate for the weakness or even the absence of policy on wildlife crime in the event of conflict. Among the recommendations, the NGO warns of the need to:

  • Strengthen international conventions to require occupation forces to provide adequate care and shelter for animals living in occupied territories;
  • Allow the establishment of expedited procedures to allow the transport of livestock across the territory’s borders in a conflict situation;
  • Consider pets in refugee relocation projects;
  • Allocate appropriate resources at border posts to enable the transport of livestock to safety;
  • adopt the principles of the International Law Commission on the protection of the environment in the context of armed conflict and recognize the right of every individual to live in a healthy environment;
  • Finally, recognize acts of nature destruction as the subject of prosecution under international law, and recognize that access to nature must be treated as a human right.

Also read:

Crimes against the environment: the difficult recognition of ecocide

War in Ukraine: thousands of animals in exile to Europe

War in Ukraine: thousands of animals in exile to Europe

World War II, a total war

World War II, a total war

Leave a Comment