28 March 2012

God Bless you Dorothy Brooke

This extract from the Brooke Hospital website outlines her contribution to the founding of Brooke Hospital for Sick Animals in Palestine:

 “From humble beginnings as a hospital for warhorses in a dusty Cairo street founded in 1934, the Brooke has become the world’s biggest welfare charity for working equines."

On arrival in Egypt in 1930, Dorothy Brooke was horrified to see hundreds of emaciated horses being used as beasts of burden on its streets.

The wife of a British army major general, Dorothy Brooke was appalled to learn that these walking skeletons were ex-warhorses of the British, Australian and American forces. All of them had seen service in the First World War…when the conflict ended in 1918, they were sold into a life of hard labour in Cairo.

Dorothy Brooke could not shake off the memory of these pitiful creatures. On her return to England she wrote a letter to the Morning Post – which later became the Daily Telegraph – exposing their plight.

The public were so moved they sent her the equivalent today of £20,000 to help end the suffering of these once proud horses.

Within three years, Dorothy Brooke had set up a committee and bought 5,000 of these ex-warhorses. Most were old and in the final stages of collapse, and had to be humanely put down. But, thanks to her compassion and tenacity, all of them ended their lives peacefully.

But Dorothy Brooke knew that her work could not end there, thousands of horses, donkeys and mules toiled and suffered in Cairo.

In 1934, Dorothy Brooke founded the ‘Old War Horse Memorial Hospital’ in Cairo, with the promise of free veterinary care for all the city’s working horses and donkeys…the Brooke Hospital for Animals was born.”

This is the text of her 1931 letter to the Morning Post:

“There have been several references lately in the columns of The Morning Post as to the possibility of raising a memorial to horses killed in the War. May I make a suggestion?
“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.
This country, to begin with, is not suitable to our horses: the heat, dust, want of water, and the fact that European horses are bigger framed and require more food than the poorer class of owner is able to supply, all add very much to their sufferings.
“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. Brook

of the first horses rescued by Dorothy Brooke after her appeal in 1931


  1. There are about 100 million equines working in the developing world, all essential to people's livelihoods as they carry people, water, food, produce and bricks.

    This year, the charity will reach more than a million working horses, donkeys and mules, benefiting around six million of the world's poorest people, who rely on these animals to earn a basic living.

    The Brooke's goal is to increase the number of working animals it helps to two million a year by 2016.

  2. A worthy cause, Angie. Although, if your post contained a link their website, I missed it.