Animals in war - secondary assembly
The RSPCA does not condone or endorse any of the practices described in this resource. This information is included for information and education purposes only.
Aims and objectives
To celebrate how soldiers and animals work together to save lives.
To explore how we interact with animals.
To consider our duty of care for all animals.
You will need
- Video – Our four-legged heroes (see the Useful websites list below)
- Warhorse by Michael Morpurgo (optional)
- The five welfare needs
- Our four-legged heroes
- Animals in war
Begin by saying that today’s assembly is about animals and war. Explain that animals have been used in many wars in the past and ask the audience if they know that animals are still used in war today.
There are several options next:
- Show the video Our four-legged heroes on the role of military dogs today. If this is not possible, use the factsheet Our four-legged heroes.
- Read out an extract from the First World War novel Warhorse by Michael Morpurgo. In chapter 16 the horse wanders into no-man’s land and both sides stop shooting in order to rescue the horse. The book also explores the different tasks horses were given in the war.
Main issues and problems
- Explain that many animals have been used to help us in war.
- Invite students to name other animals they think have been used in war. Photographs could be shown of a range of animals used in war and the audience invited to guess which were involved. Examples of animals that have been used include: horses, pigeons, camels, and dolphins (see images Animals in war).
- Ask students how they think animals other than dogs have helped us in war in the past. Alternatively, explain that animals have mainly helped with transport, communications and detection work.
- Read out the facts from the factsheet Animals in war. Photos from the images Animals in war could be projected to accompany each fact.
What can we do?
For assemblies on or near Armistice Day
Conclude the assembly with these thoughts:
- Armistice Day is about being grateful to the soldiers today who have chosen to fight on our behalf.
- It is also about honouring soldiers who fought in previous wars, remembering that many of them had no choice about whether to fight.
- While we are honouring the soldiers of yesterday and today, we can also celebrate the role animals continue to play in saving many soldiers’ lives.
- After we have paid our respects at the memorials to the brave men and women who have died in war, we can give a thought to the memorial to animals in Hyde Park in London. This memorial encourages us to think about the responsibilities we have towards all animals. It bears these words: ‘They had no choice’.
For assemblies at other times of the year
Conclude the assembly with these thoughts:
- Many peoples’ lives have been saved because of the work animals have done and because animals have put their trust in us. That trust brings a responsibility to ensure that all animals are treated with kindness and respect.
- There are five welfare needs that all animals have, including those animals used in war.
- The five welfare needs are: (read out and hold up the five cards from the factsheet The five welfare needs)
- Somewhere suitable to live
- A proper diet including fresh water
- The ability to express normal behaviour
- Any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
- Protection from, and treatment of, injury and illness.
- It can be difficult to provide all of the five freedoms in a war zone, as it is not always possible to protect the animals from injury. But if an animal is injured, rapid treatment can be given to protect the animal from further pain.
- Today’s assembly has shown that animals can do some things that we can’t do - things that can save human lives. But we need to remember that they cannot speak up for themselves: this is something that we can do for them.
Please note that the RSPCA is not responsible for the content of external websites. Their appearance in the list below should not be considered as an endorsement of the site or the content within.
- Video - Our four-legged heroes
- RSPCA - Our heritage - Animals in war
- Animals in War Memorial
- Firstworldwar.com - Vintage photographs - Animals
- The Guardian - News - An inseparable pair: dog collapses and dies after army handler is killed
- Imperial war museum - The Animals' War (PDF 533KB)