By William Rivas-Rivas
As a former Navy lieutenant junior grade and surface warfare officer who
was deployed to the Arabian Gulf in 1991 and 1998, I have the deepest respect
for our military and fully understand the need to protect our troops. But
using dolphins and sea lions to intercept terrorists and detect mines in the
Persian Gulf is cruel and should be stopped immediately.
The use of these animals has garnered much media interest, but lost in the
public relations shuffle is the fact that dolphins and other animals would
never voluntarily give up their freedom to participate in a war that is
completely beyond their comprehension. War is a human endeavor. Animals know
nothing of Al-Qaida or Saddam Hussein or the conflict in the Middle East.
They are very much like civilians caught in the crossfire and it is wrong to
deliberately put those who are at our mercy in harm's way.
They often pay with their lives. The chickens who shipped out with soldiers
last month because, according the military, they might detect poison gas, are
all dead now. They gasped out their final breaths without ever warning
anybody of anything, victims of a climate and level of stress unnatural to
It's unclear what will happen to the sea lions and dolphins. But of the
nearly 5,000 dogs who were sent with American troops to Viet Nam, only about
200 came home. Some were killed in action. The rest, to our military's
everlasting shame, were simply left behind to fend for themselves. Not much
of a reward for military service.
Even if one ignores the feelings and rights of the animals, it seems strange
that a country like ours, with the strongest, most advanced military in the
world, relies on animals to protect the men and women now risking their lives
in Iraq. With today's technology, there must be far more effective ways of
detecting mines and chemical weapons. One of my colleagues at People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ravi Chand, is a
Marine Reservist currently serving in Iraq. I doubt the animals, now also in
harm's way, will help to bring Ravi home safely.
Dolphins and sea lions cannot offer a reliable defense or surveillance for
our troops. These are intelligent animals who have minds of their own, but
they have no idea that lives will be lost if they fail to properly perform
their "missions." Takoma, one of the dolphins charged with hunting for mines
in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, recently went missing for 48 hours. Delbert
"Ace" Summey, head the Littoral Warfare Technology and Systems Department at
the Naval Coastal Systems Station, has admitted that "dolphins can't handle
all of the mine warfare problems."
The military has developed sophisticated sonar and robotic systems to hunt
for mines. These represent the future. Dolphins and sea lions should be left
to create their own futures.
It's time for U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to give the animals
used by the military an honorable discharge.
William Rivas-Rivas is a campaign coordinator for PETA.
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