Sasha and her handler were killed on patrol in Afghanistan. Sasha, a labrador, made 15 confirmed discoveries of hidden weapons, bomb-making equipment and improvised explosives in Afghanistan before both she and her handler was shot dead while on patrol in 2008.
PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals), a well known veterinary charity awarded Sasha the Dickin Medal, the highest gallantry award for an animal serving in conflict.
Wonderful. It is wonderful to acknowledge an animal bravely going about her work in a theatre of war. The director-general of PDSA said:
This medal, recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross, honours Sasha’s unwavering service and her ultimate sacrifice.
The Royal Army Veterinary Corps said it was delighted with the award. It showed how Sasha’s devotion and skills has saved many troops in Afghanistan. The handler was Sgt. Andy Dodds.
That is the short history. Those are the facts but what about the philosophical arguments of using animals in warfare? I don’t know much about philosophy but I do know that wars are human creations. They are about people in conflict. They are unnecessary and they represent a failure of humankind’s ability to resolve disputes in a sensible manner.
Do people have the right to enlist companion animals to help them fight in wars which could be avoided but for the fact that people simply don’t have the skills or the personality to resolve disputes in an amicable and sensible manner?
A dog, or any other animal enlisted to fight on behalf of humans, has no concept of war at all. That is obvious. A dog does not know he is doing something to help the military win a war. I would doubt very much whether the dog knows he is sniffing out explosives. A dog is simply sniffing out the scent of explosives but he does not know what explosives are. He does not know what war is and he does not know that he may be killed. For that reason, you could argue that it is immoral to put animals into war on behalf of people. If that is true then it could also be argued that it is inappropriate to award an animal the equivalent of the Victoria Cross because it validates the process of using animals in war.
We don’t want to support the idea that animals in war is a good idea. We want to argue that war itself is a bad idea. And if the military need to discover where explosives are by the roadside in Afghanistan, it could be argued that military personnel should do it themselves or devise methods to do it which are effective and at the same time which do not expose them to danger.
There is a similarity between animals being used in war and animals being used in laboratories for medical testing purposes. That’s the way I see it.
I can’t say that I am totally against animals being used in war and I admire Sasha and all the other animals who were killed in combat for a reason they never comprehended. I just like to present some counter arguments to de-glorify war.