Paris to build memorial for WWI animal heroes

Michel Pourny, Paris Animals Zoopolis | Activists hold up images of animals requisitioned in France during World War I during a demonstration in Paris on October 1, 2018

After heroically delivering a message in World War I, French pigeon Le Vaillant died of gas poisoning. A century later, it looks as though he and the thousands of other animals killed in the conflict will now be remembered with a monument in Paris.


An estimated 11 million horses, donkeys and mules were requisitioned during World War I, as well as 100,000 dogs and 200,000 pigeons (including Le Vaillant). While the role these animals played has been commemorated with national monuments in major cities such as London, Brussels and Ottawa, Paris has been slow to follow suit.

“There are a handful of monuments that already exist in the areas that were most affected by World War I, but they were either financed by foreign countries, such as the United Kingdom or Australia, or were built by local communities. Our goal is to obtain national recognition of the suffering these animals endured during World War I,” Amandine Sanvisens, president of the Paris Animals Zoopolis Association, told FRANCE 24.

French animal rights groups launched a campaign for such a monument back in May, when they sent a letter to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo requesting that one be built to mark the centenary of the armistice. Unimpressed, the city rejected the proposal in July. But after months of lobbying, support for the monument grew as a number of high-profile elected officials backed it. When the issue again came to another vote on Tuesday, it passed.

While Sanvisens said her association was “very happy” with City Hall’s decision, she said they are “going to follow the project very closely”.

“The fear is that the monument has been approved by the city, but that they won’t see the project through to the end,” she said.

Around a dozen animal rights activists gathered at the Place Saint-Sulpice in Paris’s affluent 6th arrondissement (district) on Monday to celebrate the war’s centenary as well as maintain the pressure on city officials.

Following last week’s vote, a task force of elected officials was put together to decide what form and where the monument will be located. Paris Animals Zoopolis hopes the memorial will be built near the avenue de l’Observatoire in the 6th arrondissement.

“We want [it there] because the local mayor supports the project and it is where horses were requisitioned for the war,” explained Sanvisens.

As for the size of the monument, Sanvisens said she would love to see something resembling London’s impressive Animals in War memorial in Hyde Park, but said she wasn’t holding her breath.

“We’re just waiting for something concrete,” she said. “We want this monument to see the light of day.”

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