‘No Blood for Oil!’ The Dolphins Cried… And Other War Stories

BACKGROUND: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, has released the following statement:

“The Pentagon recently announced that in addition to troops, the U.S. military is using chickens, dogs, dolphins, pigeons, and sea lions to fight the war against Iraq. 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.

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 they probably won’t survive. There is also no guarantee or even much likelihood that these animals will save humans, and certainly, our troops deserve the very best in surveillance and chemical-weapons detection. Using animals is not the best way to defend our military men and women.

The dolphins and sea lions now being used by the Navy in the Persian Gulf were taken from their natural homes or bred in captivity and were forced to give up their freedom and their large family groups. They were denied free access to food so that trainers could force them to do what they would never choose to do on their own. Now they are being expected to swim up to potential terrorists under the water, clamp cuffs onto their legs, and deploy floating markers. Navy officials are not certain that it will work, but they are certain that it is dangerous. The Marines now have chickens and pigeons in Kuwait, even though they also have equipment to detect poison gas. Already, dozens of hens have died en route, possibly, according to the Marines, from the shock of the long trip.

While dogs, unlike sea lions, at least enjoy the company of people, their loyalty and love should not be “rewarded” with death on a battlefield. The military can detect weapons and find wounded troops with some very sophisticated equipment. There is no need to put innocent animals at risk. What will happen to dogs who manage to survive a war in Iraq? Five thousand dogs served alongside American troops in Vietnam, but only 140 came home — not because the rest were killed, but because they were abandoned by the U.S. military. This attitude, that animals are expendable tools to be used and tossed out, persists today in our military.”1

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: No dolphins have been harmed in the making of this war.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: The U.S. military is using animals to save lives — a worthy goal. The dolphins have skills the military cannot replicate using only machinery. Environmental organizations should support the war effort.

DISCUSSION: Bottlenose dolphins helped to clear the southern Iraqi harbor in Umm Qasr of explosive mines so the British ship RFA Sir Galahad, filled with approximately 230 tons of humanitarian supplies, could bring aid to suffering Iraqis on March 28.

Bottlenose dolphins detect underwater mines by using a natural form of sonar, called echolocation, in which high-pitched sounds are emitted and their echoes interpreted to determine the direction and distance of objects. The dolphins are trained to place a buoy near the site of mines and then swim away, leaving the job of donating or disabling the mines to humans. The U.S. military has had a dolphin-training program since 1960.

No dolphins were injured or killed in the March 28 effort, according to the U.S. Navy.

Tom Lapuzza, a public-affairs officer for the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, told the San Jose Mercury News that the dolphins are used not because they are expendable, but because they have natural underwater detection abilities that are superior to human eyesight or any machine that has been tested to date. Lapuzza said the dolphins are never used to disarm explosives or for any militarily offensive purpose, such as attacking enemy troops or planting bombs at an enemy location. “You don’t give that kind of decision to an animal. We don’t think that’s ethical.”2

Bill McClain, a retired U.S. Navy Seal who helped develop the dolphin program, told Sacramento’s KCRA-TV: “The minesweepers are something like 94 percent effective… dolphins were 99.8 percent effective.”3

Sea lions — though not directly engaged in Iraq — have been trained to detect swimming saboteurs to help the allied navies protect against a U.S.S. Cole-like incident.

PETA is not the only environmental organization to speak out against the U.S. government’s military actions in Iraq.

The Sierra Club and Greenpeace have joined the left-wing anti-war protest coalition Win Without War,4,5 noted for commercials starring Martin Sheen and for the outspoken activities of a sister group, Mike Farrell’s and Robert Greenwald’s Artists United to Win Without War.

Win Without War is organizing a joint petition drive with another left-wing group, “MoveOn.org,”6 calling the U.S. action in Iraq a “reckless use of military power.”

MoveOn.org was founded to oppose the impeachment of Bill Clinton and more recently is noted for its remake of the infamous 1964 “daisy” commercial.7

A visit to the Greenpeace website March 29 found the entire www.greenpeace.org main page devoted to broadsides against the U.S. and U.K.; there was no indication whatsoever that Greenpeace is an environmental organization.

Environmental organizations also have undergone criticism recently for opposing reforms to domestic environmental laws that impede military training.

According to a forthcoming National Center for Public Policy Research paper by David Almasi, in 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to label 56 percent of Camp Pendleton and 65 percent of neighboring Miramar Air Station (the home of “Top Gun”) as critical endangered species habitat, thereby putting it off-limits to training. When a compromise was reached to allow training to continue in many areas, environmentalists filed a lawsuit to enforce the original restrictions.

The Pentagon has asked Congress to alter some environmental laws that restrict the military’s use of its land. A coalition of 12 environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Oceana, Military Toxics Project, National Environmental Trust, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is fighting this request.8


“War: Tell Congress to Leave the Animals Out of It!,” PETA Action Alert, http://www.peta.org

Marc Morano, “Dolphins Did Not ‘Volunteer’ for War, Animal ‘Rights’ Activists Say,” CNSNews.com, at http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPentagon.asp?Page=%5CPentagon%5Carchive%5C200303%5CPEN20030326a.html

Alex Cukan, “Animal Tales: Dolphins Do Duty in Wartime,” United Press International, http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030328-120935-2146r


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.