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Don’t hurt animals in war, says MP

A LABOUR MP has appealed to military leaders in Iraq to think about some of the forgotten casualties of war - animals.

Left-winger Tony Banks, a former minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Government, welcomed promises from London and Washington that troops would do their best to avoid hitting ordinary Iraqis in bombing raids, but said they also needed to think about the creatures in Baghdad's El-Zawra Zoo.

"In war, countless numbers of animals are killed and injured," the former sports minister, who voted against war on Iraq, said in an statement put before parliament last Friday.

He appealed to military leaders "to ensure that Baghdad's El-Zawra zoo is safeguarded and that when hostilities are over military vets will provide urgent assistance to the zoo and other organisations involved with animal welfare in Iraq."

The zoo, which is reported to be shut and under renovation, escaped bomb damage during the 1991 allied blitz on Baghdad but keepers said the animals had been disturbed by the noise of bombs hitting nearby targets.

The cause of suffering creatures always gains huge publicity in Britain, whose animal-loving citizens have a reputation for caring more about their pets than fellow humans.

Neither is it the first time that Banks has gone into battle to protect animals in a war zone.

In 2001, the colourful legislator championed the cause of Marjan, a lame one-eyed lion in Kabul Zoo when the U.S. carried out bombing raids in Afghanistan (news - web sites) to oust the Taliban regime.

Marjan, who had survived numerous battles, communism, the Taliban and the U.S. bombing campaign, died of old age in a blaze of international publicity shortly afterwards.