« The Hassle of Egypt | Main | Out of Africa ... into the Middle East »

July 11, 2007

Visit to The Brooke Hospital for Equines

Click on image to play video (high speed connection advised).

LOCATION: Hurghada, Red Sea Coast, Egypt
Longitude: N:27deg.15'38.
Latitude: E:033deg.48'15s.
Kms from Djibouti: 4,007 kms

On a more positive note [to the last update], Vini Soni and I recently spent the day visiting the Brooke Hospital for equines (horses, donkeys and mules), a truly wonderful animal welfare charity working in poor communities around the world in which the people are dependent upon equines for their livelihood. My parents have always been avid supporters, so an arrangement was made to visit one of their mobile field clinics in Qus, a small town just north of Luxor. Although Expedition 360 is a human powered journey connected to outreach programs primarily targeting young people, we have in more recent years focused on smaller scale awareness/fund raising activities that seek to assist local projects/organizations we meet along the way (rather that one huge organization). Plus having grown up with animals and now traveling through countries where equines are often subjected to an extremely harsh life, it's an easy cause for me to get involved with.


Many of the wounds and illnesses we saw were of course quite shocking (especially to the soft, western eye): donkeys with gaping harness wounds on their flanks from careless user management, several cases of the front chain on the head-piece rubbing a deep gash in the animal's nose (fixed quite easily and cheaply by wrapping the chain with a piece of old cloth), and a horse with a 12 x 4 inch area of flesh missing from its rump following a collision with a car. One owner had brought in a mule with second degree burns to its muzzle caused by a traditional, but erroneous, method of treatment for respiratory ailments that involves forcing the animal to inhale a concoction of smoke and herbs. This last case illustrated the point made by host and guide Dr Emad that 80% of the pain and suffering experienced by the animals is caused by ignorance on the part of the owner/operator.


Short term healing often takes a long time because whole families are dependent upon the animal for their daily sustenance, and so the poor beast has to keep on working when it should ideally be resting. But in the long term many of these problems are easy to fix: with education. So in addition to providing free vetinary care once a week the clinic has introduced a policy of appointing local leaders with a background in animal management (such as the dealers) to provide a middle layer of management interface between the Brooke staff and the owners on the ground. This helps introduce a trickle-down effect of knowledge and good animal welfare techniques which spread throughout the community.


As part of this same strategy for prevention the Luxor team also target children with educational workshops that aim to radically improve the habits and practices of animal management within the next 15 years. This struck me as perhaps the greatest value investment the Brooke are making for long term, permanent solutions to the problems being addressed. But, as Dr Emad point out, it takes time.

"It's easy to treat hundreds and hundreds of animals but to change the mind of one person, this is the most difficult thing"
See video top.

They are seeing results however. In the 35 years that the Brooke has been operating in the Luxor area the overall physical, mental and emotional condition of the working animals has improved dramatically. When they first started visiting Qus 7-years ago they would treat up to 150 animals per day. Today they typically see between 40-60 animals, a drop of nearly two thirds.

If you care about animals please visit the Brooke website and consider getting involved. I can personally vouch that they are a legitimate, truly excellent organization worthy of your support. A copy of their periodic magazine was always knocking around somewhere on the kitchen table when I was growing up and I believe you'd have a hard time finding another animal welfare charity more committed and successful in relieving the pain and suffering of equines worldwide.



Posted on July 11, 2007 6:41 AM