PETA Calls On Rumsfeld To Leave Animals Out Of War In Wake Of Awol Dolphin

For Immediate Release:
2 April 2003

Sean Gifford 020 7357 9229, ext. 226

Yesterday, PETA fired-off a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, urging him to order an end to the use of dolphins and other animals by the military. The request follows reports that a 33-year-old male Atlantic (cold water) dolphin named Takoma, charged with hunting for mines in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, had gone missing for more than 48 hours. Other dolphins put in similar situations have strayed only to be recaptured or attacked by sharks, unable to defend themselves in foreign waters. PETA points out that although dolphins are highly intelligent animals, they do not understand that lives depend on their assignments and, according to dolphin trainers, can be easily distracted from their ‘missions.’ PETA further states that the Pentagon is obligated to protect American troops as effectively as possible and that using animals not only is cruel, but also may cost lives instead of saving them.

PETA also expressed to Rumsfeld concern over the use of chickens and pigeons in Kuwait, dozens of whom have died from stress and exposure. The birds were sent to detect poison gas even though units stationed there have already been outfitted with chemical-detection equipment.

‘Wars are human endeavors,’ says PETA wildlife caseworker Stephanie Boyles. ‘These animals never enlisted. They know nothing of Iraq or Saddam Hussein, and they probably won’t survive. Our troops deserve the best protection, and the animals deserve to be left out of the conflict.’

PETA’s letter to Sec. Rumsfeld follows.



April 1, 2003

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a nonprofit organization with more than 750,000 members and supporters worldwide dedicated to animal protection. The Pentagon recently announced that the Navy is using dolphins and sea lions to intercept terrorists and mines in the Persian Gulf, and the Army and the Marines are using chickens and pigeons to detect the presence of biological and chemical weapons and dogs to detect weapons and rescue troops. Many of the chickens and pigeons have already suffered and died from stress and exposure. Now the dolphin Takoma goes AWOL for an extended period. We support our troops and believe that they deserve the best defense that money can buy, but using animals is cruel and may cost lives rather than saving them. On behalf of our many members and supporters, we respectfully request that you order the military to stop using animals.

We understand that equipment for Australian divers was “bumped” off a flight in order to bring in another dolphin to replace Takoma, prompting the divers to question the effectiveness of the Navy’s dolphin program. While we understand that Takoma has since returned, his 48-hour disappearance proves that 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 tasks, yet the military wants to rely on the actions of these animals in order to protect our troops. In an article from the Contra Costa Times, 2nd Lt. Paula Rood, a former trainer of the dolphin Makai, said that dolphins often become distracted by other animals in the area or will just take off and not be seen for hours. She said, “If they’re not interested, they’re like a 3-year-old who loses interest quickly and they’re just not going to play anymore.”

Wars are human endeavors. While a person, a political party, or a nation may decide that war is necessary, the animals never do. Like civilians, they often become the victims of war, but now, the U.S. military is deliberately putting animals in harm’s way. These animals never enlisted. They know nothing of Iraq or Saddam Hussein, and there is also no guarantee that these animals will save human lives. In fact, they may cause the loss of lives. Certainly, our troops deserve the very best in surveillance and chemical-weapons detection, and using animals is obviously not the best way to protect our servicemembers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,


Stephanie Boyles, Wildlife Biologist
Research & Investigations Department