To feed or not to feed at the Giza pyramids– that is the question before animal charities
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2011:
CAIRO–Is feeding the horses and camels at the Giza pyramids
a mission of mercy, or merely subsidizing riding stables with a long
history of atrocious animal care?
The Egyptian Society of Animal Friends and the London-based
Brooke Hospital for Animals have come down on opposite sides of the
ethically vexing question.
ESAF, which raised $66,500 in 2010, expects to continue
feeding horses and camels at the pyramids until start of the December
tourist season, president Ahmed al Sherbiny told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The Brooke, founded in 1934 to help Egyptian working equines,
raised $21.7 million in 2010, but has not helped to feed the Giza
pyramids horses since April 2011, believing this to be a
self-defeating practice. Feeding camels, the Brooke told ANIMAL
PEOPLE earlier, is outside the scope of the Brooke mission.
The feeding issue ignited after disruption of tourism by
the protests that deposed former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on
February 11, 2011 left the Giza pyramids riding stables and others
in Egypt without feed or funds.
Already holding weekly clinics for working equines near the
Giza pyramids, ESAF and the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals
expanded into feeding both equines and camels.
“ESAF has continued to hold thrice weekly horse feedings and
clinics, and has added stable visits for the needier horses,” al
Sherbiny told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The numbers attending our clinics,”
a total of more than 50 camels and about 750 horses through August
2011, “have risen slightly,” al Sherbiny said. “We are very
concerned that tourism will not return to normal until the political
situation in Egypt is resolved, we hope by the October parliamentary
elections. Even if things go smoothly,” al Sherbiny added, “there
are concerns that many of the horses will not be fit to resume work.
Because of these concerns,” al Sherbiny said, “ESAF will continue
feed distribution and medical clinics until December, if funding
Both the Brooke and the Donkey Sanctuary initially disputed
the need to feed the Giza pyramids working animals at al. Resuming
mobile clinics in Giza on February 10, after a suspension during
the worst of the Egyptian unrest, both the Brooke and the Donkey
Sanctuary initially said they found no starving horses or donkeys.
Emergency feeding funded by the Brooke, the Donkey
Sanctuary, ANIMAL PEOPLE, ESAF, and other local charities began on
February 13, five days after the London Daily Mail published photos
purporting to show horses who starved to death within sight of the
pyramids. The photos actually showed a longtime
government-designated carcass dump near the pyramids, including the
remains of horses who died from disease even before the anti-Mubarak
protests began, Cairo activist Dina Zulfikar told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
But ESMA cofounders Mona Khalil and Susie Nassar meanwhile sent out
photos showing emaciated horses in the pyramids area.
Brits quit feeding
The Brooke and the Donkey Sanctu-ary quit the feeding
operation on April 21. ESAF and ESMA disagreed with their decision
at the time, and have become more outspoken about their disagreement
since then. There is also friction between the Egyptian animal
charities and the Brooke because the Brooke does not respond to
after-hours emergency calls, and over a 20-year-old Brooke policy of
not performing surgeries on horses that are expected to take longer
than 20 minutes. The latter policy is consistent with a belief
widespread among equine veterinarians that horses requiring longer
surgeries tend to have a poor prognosis for recovery.
“The number of animals in need is extensive, and all animal
welfare societies in Egypt are wondering ‘Where is Brooke Hospital?'”
e-mailed al Sherbiny to Brooke chief executive Petra Ingram on August
Responded Ingram, “The Brooke has been providing mobile
veterinary treatments to the working equine animals in the Pyramids
area for some time and continues to do so. Sadly some animals at the
Pyramids were in a poor condition before the crisis. That is why we
were already working in the area. We did provide free food for almost
three months. Unfortunately,” Ingram said, “simply providing these
animal with free food will not solve the problem. To go on providing
a feeding is unsustainable in the long-term, creating a dependency
culture, distorting local fodder prices, and adversely affecting
the ability of local farmers to sell their produce.
“The Brooke has worked to build a sustainable program in
Cairo and across Egypt over the last few years,” Ingram contended.
“We are working with the animal owners to change attitudes and
behavior. We will continue to provide weekly mobile treatments and
run education workshops,” Ingram finished.
The poor condition of many of the working horses in the Giza
pyramids area was already notorious when Brooke Hospital founder
Dorothy Brooke arrived in Egypt in 1930. Her letter to the London
Morning Post exposing the bad horse care she witnessed raised the
funds to start the Brooke.
Nearly 80 years of clinics and education begun by Dorothy
Brooke have unfortunately not raised the Giza standards. This is at
least partly because politically influential stable owners–some of
whom led a horse-and-camel charge against anti-Mubarak
demonstrators–have never been prosecuted for neglect.
“At the beginning of August,” al Sherbiny told ANIMAL
PEOPLE, “we invited the new Government Veterinary Services chair to
see our shelter and the condition of the rescued horses we are
treating. We hope he will enforce the existing legislation. We plan
to move our clinic to a very prominent position used also by the
veterinary department. We are hoping this move will force the
government to become more involved and will create more public
“We are in a very difficult situation,” al Sherbiny
acknowledged. “We cannot stand by and watch the animals starve,
even though we realize that feeding them could be perpetuating the
problem. ESAF is committed to try to change it, but we cannot do it