British Pet Massacre
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseIn 1939, prior to the start of the European War, the British government formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) to evaluate the effects animals would have on the war, particularly on the aspect of food rationing. The committee determined that the British collectively owned six to seven million dogs and cats, 56 million poultry, and more than 37 million various farm animals. While the poultry and farm animals might contribution to food production, pets such as dogs and cats, especially in larger cities, would instead cause a burden on any rationing system to be implemented during a future war. The committee's conclusion was that pet owners in larger cities should relocate their pets to the countryside, and published a pamphlet advising so. The pamphlet included the statement "If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed."
ww2dbaseImmediately after the Sep 1939 declaration of war, many pet owners in cities, following what they thought was the advice of the NARPAC, took their pets to veterinarians to have them euthanized. These owners thought such an action was a patriotic one, allowing food to go toward war needs. They also thought they were being merciful by sparing their dogs and cats from the cruelty of starvation. About 400,000 pets were killed in the first week of the war. When the British capital London was bombed starting in Sep 1940, a new round of euthanasia requests began. By the time the European War had ended, an estimated number of 750,000 pets were killed. A number of places took in the pets rather than killing them; Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, for example, cared for 145,000 dogs during the war. There were also animal advocates who created their own safe havens for unwanted pets.
ww2dbaseAfter the war, there were some who publicly criticized NARPAC for creating the hysteria that led to what they deemed as an unnecessary action that took many animals' lives. Defenders of the NARPAC recommendations noted that the NARPAC pamphlet was misunderstood by the general public, and pointed out the fact that, several weeks after the publication of the pamphlet in question, a supplemental notice was published noting that "those who are staying at home should not have their animals destroyed."
Last Major Update: Dec 2018
Did you enjoy this article? Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.
- » Possible crash site of Glenn Miller (15 Jan 2019)
- » WW2DB's 14th Anniversary (29 Dec 2018)
- » Hump pilot Allen Turner's remains identified (11 Dec 2018)
- » Passing of George H. W. Bush (1 Dec 2018)
- » See all news
- » 1,043 biographies
- » 327 events
- » 35,750 timeline entries
- » 728 ships
- » 329 aircraft models
- » 184 vehicle models
- » 340 weapon models
- » 104 historical documents
- » 178 facilities
- » 458 book reviews
- » 25,100 photos
- » 289 maps