Page 11 - Chiron Spring 2018
P. 11

 ‘Slowly speeds the plough’
East, could not be repatriated to England and some could not be sold locally. “The unfortunate consequence was that, after every available channel of useful [horse] disposal had been explored, there remained in some theatres of war a surplus of serviceable animals which could only be destroyed”.
• British losses were 484,000 horses and mules, being the equivalent of two animals for each soldier.
• 62,000 British horses and mules were returned to Britain from the Western Front and such was the high level of care given to them by the AVC that no contagious diseases were brought into the country.
• Many others were sold either to French or Belgian farmers, 7,775 in total, whose animals had been taken from them for the war effort, or for other kinds of civil work.
• Some 45,000 went into the meat trade to French ‘horse butchers’ for meat and hides as horsemeat is eaten on the Continent, and those 39,945 war horses and mules unfit through injury, illness or age for either of these disposal routes were butchered or turned into by-products by the Horse Carcase Economiser Depots [STL Beacon- Robert Koening ‘the fourth horseman’] during the four months between the Armistice and the end of March 1919.
• “A good market for horse flesh fit for human food was found” in France and Belgium, says the official war history of the British Veterinary Service, noting the high demand for military contracts “with
Slow but strong and steady
 approved firms of butchers in
• Army Waste Products Ltd., a
military trading company appointed by Britain’s Army Council, took over the disposal of horse carcasses. And when a meat shortage struck in England, officials set up a system to sell horsemeat in London and Liverpool. “The plan worked well, and it became possible to dispose of large numbers of otherwise worthless animals at prices which varied between 9 Pounds and 12 Pounds,” said a post-war report.
• The American Expeditionary Force recorded 63,000 as killed of the 182,000 brought into the war on the Western Front, of which a mere 200 went home.
• A total of 13,000 Australian horses survived until the end of the war with 11,000 going to the Indian Army as remounts – the remaining 2000 were shot as strict
quarantine procedures together with significant transport costs prevented any being sent back to Australia.
• Similarly, New Zealand horses were distributed to the Egyptian or British Armies in Egypt, but the others were also shot to remove the risk of potential ill-treatment by other buyers.
• In Egypt the situation for these ex-warhorses was far from ideal and even as late as 1930 there were so many ex-military horses from the former American, Australian and British Armies being ill-treated by their owners that Dorothy Brooke, wife of Major General Brooke, founded the Old Warhorse Memorial Hospital in Cairo in 1934 [now the Brooke Hospital for Animals] and financed by donations from Britain, buying 5000 of these creatures to stop further suffering. The exhausted and aged animals

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