I love horses, and have ridden all my life, so I am passionate about the work of this unique charity. Its determination to improve the lives of working horses, donkeys, and mules in many countries where animals are not so respected and loved as they are here, is legendary.
Its story began 80 years ago this month, when Dorothy Brooke the wife of a distinguished General - wrote from Cairo to the 'Morning Post' in London describing the plight of the army horses left behind after the war to work for their living in Egypt. She urged the public not to raise money to remember the horses killed in the war, but to give donations to help those war horses living on in dreadful hardship. During the Second World War my father was a Cavalry Officer stationed in Cairo, and I recollect him telling me all about Dorothy Brooke and the wonderful work she was doing there, that was when my passion for The Brooke was ignited!
I first visited it in Egypt in 2006, when on one of my first official trips abroad it was one of the most impressive (and certainly one of the cleanest) places in Cairo - and it moved me to tears. On my return, and when asked to become its President, I accepted with alacrity! Later that year whilst visiting Pakistan, following the devastating earthquake there, I saw for myself at first hand the impressive and momentous work The Brooke did for the thousands of animals and their owners following that disaster it moved me to tears again!
Now, as its President, I try to support The Brooke's work wherever I can. Last March I saw just how much difference this charity can make to working horses at the tourist site of Petra when I was in Jordan; and on an official visit to India last November, I was able to thank some of the Brooke India staff personally for the vital emergency relief they provided in Uttarakhand to stranded animals in the disastrous floods in that region.
From the very beginning, The Brooke has understood that the key to the working animal's welfare is to help and educate the owner. Despite the crucial role which working animals play in earning a living, many of their owners know very little about animal husbandry. The Brooke works with schools, and trains local people, showing them the practical benefits of increased skill, knowledge, and understanding about animal welfare and so the good work that The Brooke starts, hopefully, brings lasting change.
I am delighted you were able to join me for lunch today and I hope I have given you a glimpse of how important it is to celebrate the courage and initiative of Dorothy Brooke, and to ensure The Brooke's invaluable work continues for many years to come.