English | Pet | Massacre | 22nd July 2022 | Virtual Wire
During both World Wars England played a significant role. Being one of the largest Empires at the time we know of how they brought locals from foreign lands under their rule to fight under the British Flag.
Needless to say, even with such help the English lost many of their own as well. War demands massive resources and countries will focus more on their military, it also causes mass inflation and economic disruption. But resources, lives and land weren’t the only losses England suffered. Early September 1939 the nation witnessed a horrendous pet holocaust. World War I had ended just 21 years prior to the 2nd War, and many citizens knew what it was like to be in a war. There is constant threat, cost cuts, price inflation, destruction of property etc. Naturally, they would want to reduce their own suffering. At the time the total house pet and poultry population in England were twice the human populations. A simple misinterpretation and vague government pamphlet led to this massacre. It is a significant story lost in time and covered by the heroics and sacrifices of World War 2.
At the time statistics showed England had approximately 7 million dogs, 56 million poultry and 37 million domesticated farm animals. A shortage of resources and food would have been a heavy burden to their owners and brought suffering to their pets as they would scarcely get food. With the upcoming war, all these concerns were already in many citizens’ minds. Because of the impending threat of air raids, the government established National Air Raid Precaution Animal Committee (NARPAC). This committee had sent out flyers and published a warning notice in newspapers which read “If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency”.
The same notice concluded with “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed”. NARPAC soon saw their mistake of unclear communication. The notice was not for the general public and their household pets but for Poultry and cattle owners. The mass hysteria and rumours took the government and those
who is in the field of animal welfare by surprise? Within the first week itself, 7,50,000 pets were killed and dumped on the streets. A few thought it's better to put their pet down than let them suffer from war, others had a false sense of responsibility to national duty.
NARPAC would soon send out more flyers to stop the public. But it was too late, the tide wouldn’t stop and the damage was done. Government organisations, vets and animal NGOs would make a great effort to stop the cull. Unfortunately, their advice was drowned in hysteria and left unheeded. Soon there would be many memorandums of their pets found in building walls and in newspapers of England. Worse still ignoring this, there were many dogs and cats honoured for their participation in the World War. Soon people moved on and the whole incident was covered up. Only a few pieces of literature recount this event such as: “The
British Cat and Dog Massacre” by Hilda Kean and “The People’s War” by Angus Calder. It’s sad how such a massacre was covered up so well. Only a handful of people know about this event. It highlights exactly how miscommunication can lead to horrible events, especially in sensitive times. This is a story worth knowing over the world.