Luigi Cadorna and the Return of Decimation in World War I

Recently I was doing research on the Roman army’s use of decimation as a form of discipline to punish units who had mutinied or deserted from battle. One of the sources mentioned the claim that Italian Marshall Luigi Cadorna had reintroduced decimation as a form of discipline during World War I.

Cadorna was the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army from mid-1914 until the disastrous defeat of the Italian Army at the Battle of Caporetto in October/November 1917.

There appear to have been two well-documented cases of something like decimation being used by the Italian Army during the time.

The first occurred in January 1916, as historian Vanda Wilcox notes in her paper, Discipline in the Italian army, 1915-1918,

The first well-documented incident of decimation was during the Strafexpedition in May 1916. Several members of the 141st Regiment fled under attack; a 2nd lieutenant, 3 sergeants and 8 men were summarily shot by their commanding officer, whilst a further 74 men were subsequently sent to military tribunals. This summary action was intended to punish a proportion of those involved, selected at random, in order to prevent the recurrence of such events in future. The commanding officer received a special commendation from Cadorna in recognition of his prompt action.

In another incident in July 1917, the 141st and 142nd infantry regiments of the Catanzaro Brigade mutinied. According to Wilcox,

Immediately that morning, 16th July, 28 men were executed. 16 of these had been considered to have been ‘caught in the act of firing shots,’ identified by their still-warm rifle barrels. The other 12 had been selected by lot, as decimation was applied to the 6th company of the 142nd regiment.

Wilcox notes that for whatever reason, Cadorna “claimed that all contemporary armies parcticed decimation,” which was obviously false, and that decimation was used by the Italian army for two distinct purposes,

The first was described as “humanitarian”. In the event that a large number of men should be found guilty of an offence punishable by execution, the death penalty would only be applied to a proportion who were to be drawn by lot from amongst the guilty. The Italian Penal Code of 1859 did in fact lay down that, in a case where a large group were found guilty of a capital offence, only the ringleaders, officers and graduates were to be executed, whilst the others should receive prison terms. Cadorna extended this rule to include not only the aforementioned groups but others chosen at random. This was considered to be a humane application of decimation as it ‘saved’ certain lives. . . . Less commonly, decimation was used to punish an entire unit in the event that the guilty party could not be identified. In this type of decimation, the entire unit would be drawn up and men selected by lot were summarily shot; sometimes every tenth man, sometimes a higher proportion.

It is not for nothing that historian David Stevenson noted that “Luigi Cadorna has earned opprobrium as one of the most callous and incompetent of First World War Commanders” (With Our Backs to the Wall, pp.101).

Animal Rights Activists In Jail as of January 2005

The Earth Liberation Prisoner Support Group published a helpful list of animal rights activists currently being held in jail in the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Sweden.

They are,

Great Britain

David Blenkinsop — Blenkinsop is serving a 5-and-a-half year sentence for his role in an animal rights bombing campaign; a four year sentence for his role in the 2001 assault on Huntingdon Life Sciences managing director Brian Cass; and 18 months for stealing 600 guinea pigs from a supplier.

Paul Leboutillier — currently serving 2-and-a-half years for making threatening phone calls to medical researchers, farmers and others.

Barry Dickinson — currently serving a 5 month sentence for using vehicle licensing computers to provide animal rights extremists with home addresses and other details of medical researchers.

Sarah Gisborne — currently being held while awaiting charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

Italy

Sergio Maria Stefani – currently being held while awaiting trial on charges of causing criminal damage to stores in Italy and planting an incendiary device outside a butcher’s shop.

Sweden

Daniel Hedqvist — currently serving a 10 month prison term for damaging the incubator at a chicken hatchery, ending the development of an estimated 55,000 eggs.

United States

Peter Schnell – currently jailed for violating terms of his probation. Schnell was sentenced in 2002 to two years in jail after pleading guilty to possession of explosive devices.

The ELP list does not included convicted animal rights terrorists who have cooperated with the government or testified against other animal rights extremists.

Source:

Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network. January 2005.

Italian Activists' "Close Down Morini" Campaign

Massimo Tettamanti and Marian Berati, two Italian animal rights activists associated with Italian anti-research organization No Vivisezione, sent out an e-mail in September asking for help in shutting down Morini, an firm that breeds animals for medical research.

In August 2002, the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy passed a statute forbidding the breeding sale or use of dogs or cats for medical research purposes. The Italian Ministry of Health appealed to Italy’s Constitutional court arguing that the law should be voided since it conflicted with a national law that allows cats and dogs to be used for medical research.

The Constitutional Court struck down the Emilia-Romagna ban, agreeing with the Ministry of Health that regions could not enact anti-research bans that contradicted national laws.

According to the e-mail sent out by Tettamanti and Berati,

But at the moment the farm cannot sell dogs tot he laboratories, yet, because in order to have the necessary permission renewed, the Mayor of the town must give an explicit authorization.

The former Mayor was absolutely in favor of the Morini farm, but A FEW WEEKS AGO A NEW MAYOR HAS BEEN ELECTED! So it’s really important to make pressure on him to convince him to “reconvert” the farm to another activity.”

The e-mail goes on to urge activists to send e-mails to the Mayor and others to convince the new Mayor to continue to refuse to allow the farm to sell animals to research laboratories.

Source:

Please, help saving beagle dogs from vivisection! Press Release, No Vivisezione, September 16, 2004.

BUAV's New CEO: Ignore the Violent Man Behind the Curtain

Italian animal rights activist Adolfo Sansolini this month became chief executive officer of the British Union for the Abolishment of Vivisection. Sansolini founded Italian anti-animal research group Lega Anti Vivesezione, and for the last few years has been a consultant to Eurogroup for Animal Welfare.

What the British press picked up on right away were Sansolini’s views on non-violence. UKPets News included the following quotes from Sansolini,

I oppose all violence, be it violence against animal victims in the laboratory or violence towards people outside the laboratory. The difference between races, sexuality or religion have long been used to justify prejudice and exploitation. The argument that we have the right to experiment on animals because they are a different species is just the same.

. . .

To depict anti-vivisectionists as terrorists is dishonest. A small number of violent people can exist in any environment but they cannot be taken as a symbol of a radically non-violent movement like the one for the respect of animal rights. But that’s not to say that some anti-vivisectionists shouldn’t be more self-critical when it comes to tactics.

Talks out of both sides of his mouth — should fit in perfectly at BUAV.

BUAV’s press release announcing Sansolini’s appointment included a quote from him claiming that, “The BUAV is the world’s leading organization campaigning for an end to animal experiments . . .” This was followed by a note that “Adolfo’s appointment to the BUAV comes in the year (2004) of the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Frances Power Cobbe, the BUAV’s original founder.” Apparently it doesn’t take much in the way of results to become the world’s leading organization campaigning for an end to animal experiments.

Here’s to another 100+ years of continuing that same level of success by the BUAV.

Sources:

New BUAV CEO defies animal activist stereotype. UKPets.Co.UK, August 26, 2004.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection Appoints Adolfo Sansolini as Chief Executive Officer. Press Release, The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, May 20, 2004.

Italian Animal Rights Activist Arrested

The Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network reported last week that Italian animal rights activist Sergio Maria Stefani was arrested “in Rome by police investigating damage carried out against several
fur stores, butchers and the discovery of an incendiary device in front of a butchers in March 2004.”

Source:

Earth Liberation Prisoner’s Support Network Bulletin. May 21, 2004.

Italian Activists Target Biologist

A post at animal rights extremist web site ArkangelWeb.Org reports on the targeting of employees of a testing lab in Italy,

Newspapers have reported that on the night of 5th and 6th December a car belonging to a biologist in Torino has had its windows broken, tyres punctured, paintstripper poured over it and a spraypainted message: “No RBM”.

RBM is a contract testing lab in Colleretto
Giacosa, near Torino, which is under continous
pressure with weekly demos. This is not the first time that such an attack has taken place on a worker at this particular laboratory.

Source:

Italian Activists Putting on the Pressure. ArkangelWeb.Org, December 22, 2003.