After WW1 there were thousands of horses that survived military service for Britain. Quarantine restrictions prevented the horses from being shipped back home. Most were destroyed but over 20,000 were sold for next to nothing. Many ended up in the Sinai laboring unimaginable challenges and improperly cared for. In her late 40’s Dorothy and her military husband moved to Cairo in 1930. Dorothy was appalled by the condition of the former British military horses and the work they were being made to do.
She wrote a letter to London’s Morning Post lamenting their situation and the response she received changed her life.
Out here, in Egypt, there are still many hundreds of old Army Horses sold of necessity at the cessation of the War. They are all over twenty years of age by now, and to say that the majority of them have fallen on hard times is to express it very mildly. Those sold at the end of the war have sunk to a very low rate of value indeed: they are past ‘good work’ and the majority of them drag out wretched days of toil in the ownership of masters too poor to feed them – too inured to hardship themselves to appreciate, in the faintest degree, the sufferings of animals in their hands.
These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water, or a kind word in English?
Many are blind – all are skeletons.
A fund is being raised to buy up these old horses. As most of them are the sole means of a precarious livelihood to their owners, adequate compensation must, of necessity, be given in each case. An animal out here, who would be considered far too old and decrepit to be worked in England, will have before him several years of ceaseless toil – and there are no Sundays or days of rest in this country. Many have been condemned and destroyed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (not a branch of the RSPCA), but want of funds necessitates that all not totally unfit for work should be restored to their owners after treatment.
If those who truly love horses – who realize what it can mean to be very old, very hungry and thirsty, and very tired, in a country where hard, ceaseless work has to be done in great heat – will send contributions to help in giving a merciful end to our poor old war heroes, we shall be extremely grateful; and we venture to think that, in many ways, this may be as fitting (though unspectacular) part of a War Memorial as any other that could be devised.
Signed – Dorothy E. Brooke
The public was moved, they sent her 20,000 pounds (today’s equivalent over $275,000 dollars) to help the suffering animals. Dorothy started buying the former noble steeds.
Over a four-year period, she bought back over 5,000 former military horses and mules. Many were so ill, she fed, sheltered and groomed them allowing them a few days of comfort and pleasant human contact, then she put them down. Dorothy also founded the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital in Cairo promising free veterinary care for all the city’s working horses and donkeys.
Dorothy worked all her life rescuing horses in difficult circumstances. The kindness she exhibited toward the most pitiful equines can not be explained by words. Today her foundation continues to aide working equines in some of the poorest countries in the world.
UPDATE MAY 2016
Today Brooke is the leading global welfare charity for working horses, donkeys and mules reaching more than 1.8 million animals. This year the organization made a groundwork.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has approved global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules. The standards were developed over a 3-year period with expertise and technical input provided by The Brook. 180 countries will commit to undertake the recommendations approved in May.
What does this mean in practical terms?
The standards are just that, a guideline, they are not law. But adoption of standards is an overdue advance for the care of these animals. In many countries, working equines are indispensable for transportation of people and goods. One working donkey can impact whether a family has enough food to eat, a child can attend school or an injured person can get to a clinic. They are an indispensable, previously “invisible” element for survival.
For the first time, governments around the world will now have a framework that will provide basic levels of care for working equines. Recommendations relate to; food and water provisions, shelter, prevention and treatment of disease, equipment and general workload tolerances. Standards also include care for the animals beyond their working lives.
Karen Reed, Head of Animal Welfare Capacity at Brooke, was one of the key technical experts supporting the OIE whilst they developed the standards.
“This is a big step towards getting working horses, donkeys and mules the attention they deserve, for the role they play in helping millions of people work their way out of poverty.”
Edited from the Following Sources: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2016/05/26/world-first-oie-global-working-equine-standards/#axzz49m9SlXdT , www.thebrooke.org