How to protect them in times of war?

When war breaks out, it destroys everything in its path. Human lives were sacrificed, houses were razed, historic buildings collapsed… and nature also suffered from these conflicts. Mines, bombs, and toxic products used by the military also wreak havoc on fields, oceans, waterways, and forests. The environment is thus another victim of these conflicts and animals pay the price, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recalls in its latest report titled “Animals and people in war and conflict”. To preserve the lives of these wild, domestic or farm-raised animals, the foundation has drawn up a series of trails to explore.

A moral obligation to protect

“In a time of conflict, the question is not whether we should rescue animals or people. It is our responsibility to rescue them both.”Azzedine Downes, director general of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, explains. An organization of experts and citizens that ensures the well-being of the animal world around the world. Among its top activities: supporting species threatened by war.

As the IFAW report reminds us, people trapped in conflict zones face many different forms of suffering: physical injury, displacement, hunger, thirst and, of course, death horror. “All these sufferings, animals also have to go through, emphasizing IFAW. We consider it essential to do all we can to put an end to it: relieve mental, emotional and physical pain, provide shelter, provide food and water, quench thirst, reduce terror, but also bring comfort”indicated Azzedine Downes in the organization’s report.

London’s War Animals Memorial honors all the animals that have died serving the country throughout history. Photo by Chrispictures via Shutterstock.

A commitment is often misunderstood because it is seen as non-priority in the face of the urgency of saving lives in danger. However, the organization’s executive director explains that when IFAW responds to emergencies (whether the result of a natural disaster or a conflict situation), it always ensures “Human needs were taken care of before intervening in the field”.

“Our efforts to help animals in need affirm our humanity and compassion, in situations where compassion and hope are sorely lacking. This empathy and compassion is not subordinated to any political interests.”

Azzedine DownesExecutive Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare

Concrete solutions to put in place

What happens to livestock when farmers are forced to leave the country or join the army? Who let the animals be raised in their cages at the zoo when the captives were gone? Where are the people raised in shelters or the pets of residents who have rushed to leave their countries? How do wild species whose habitats are threatened by the ongoing fighting? But above all, who cares about their fate?

Helping species threatened by human conflict is the motto of IFAW. To achieve effective action around the world, the organization has outlined a series of paths in its report published in 2022. Here are:

1 – Strengthening international conventions

The goal of this first measure is simple: to develop existing international conventions to tailor them to the fate of animals. It may therefore be required that the occupation force provide adequate care and shelter for the animals present in the occupied areas. “These requirements will include access to appropriate medical care for injured animals, as well as access to food, water, shelter and/or freedom, depending on the individual’s needs. species.the report said.

2 – Make a plan to receive refugee animals and facilitate their evacuation

‘s photo Serhii Ivashchuk via Shutterstock

The second measure mentioned in the report: “Including domestic animals in all planning efforts related to the resettlement of refugees displaced by conflict”.

But that’s not all, IFAW also proposed creating expeditious procedures to facilitate the evacuation of livestock across borders in the event of a conflict. For this, it will be necessary to specify “Appropriate resources at border posts at exits from conflict areas to allow evacuation of livestock to safety”.

We were reminded of these demands not too long ago… A month after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, three million people have fled the country. Among them, many have brought their pets. Bordering countries like Poland or Romania then had to adjust their protocols to allow refugees to cross the border. The report explains: “The practice of exile of these animals is at the international level to facilitate asylum procedures in the event of conflict.

3 – Expanding the concept of war crimes against animals

Humans are not the only ones who have to bear the brunt of the cruelty of their fellow human beings in times of war. During the Iraq war, from 2003 to 2011, insurgents strapped bombs to dogs to target convoys and used donkeys to pull trucks loaded with explosives, the report said.

Therefore, to prevent such suffering caused to animals in times of conflict, IFAW recommends “Intentional and malicious harm to animals becomes a war crime, acknowledging that the use of threats to animals is a common strategy used to influence populations.” human body, weakening their spirit and forcing them to obey, especially in times of conflict.”

4 – Protect sensitive wildlife habitat

Everett Collection’s photo via Shutterstock

From 1955 to 1975, the devastating Vietnam war had significant consequences for the country’s flora and fauna. The use of Agent Orange to remove forest cover and prevent Vietnamese troops from hiding in the forest has destroyed the habitat of many species such as tigers, Asian elephants, gibbons, civets or leopards. Thereafter, unexploded ordnance killed more than 40,000 animals in the twenty years following the war.

To prevent such ecological tragedy from recurring, IFAW recommends “Strengthen international conventions to call for special attention to sensitive habitats in conflict zones.”

5 – Protecting the environment through international law

“80% of contemporary conflicts take place in biodiversity hotspots”, states the IFAW report. In addition to the protection of this habitat necessary for the survival of the species, it is the entire environment that must be protected by legally recognized “Human right to a healthy environment”. In this sense, the recognition of “ecological genocide” in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will create new levers “According to those who harm the environment in conflict situations”, indicate report.

Thanks to these mechanisms of international law, the right to access to nature thus becomes a fundamental right, and the subsequent destruction of the right may give rise to legal proceedings under international law.

6 – Fight wildlife crime

Periods of conflict favor the growth of poaching and the animal trade. Authorities are no longer prioritizing wildlife protection, giving way to traffickers of illegal wildlife products. “However, the large profits made from the sale of these products are often used by fighters to purchase weapons, which in turn keeps conflicts and wars going.”IFAW recalls.

To overcome this inhumane traffic situation, the organization finally proposed “Strengthening law enforcement systems to better combat wildlife crime at the local, national and international levels.”

Azzedine Downes concludes in the organization’s report: “By protecting wildlife habitats and encouraging them to thrive, we can save animals, including our own,” Azzedine said. Downes concluded in the organization’s report.

To go further and Read full report, visit the IFAW website or here.

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