ACE (Animal Care in Egypt)
Needs Your Help!
Please make donations at: Animal Care in Egypt www.ace-egypt.org.uk Notation: Jane Akshar, operates Flats in Luxor, a member of the AETBI, that offers flats for lease as well as local tours of the Luxor Region. The animal that tourists come into the closest contact with in Egypt is the carriage horse. Carriages, called caleches (also Hantoor) in Egypt, are a feature of every tourist destination throughout the country, but are particularly prominent in Luxor.
These carriages are brightly decorated and are pulled by horses that have descended from animals left behind by the British army. These horses are ill-shod, malnourished, frequently had badly fitting harnesses and are made to gallop unnecessarily, in the very high temperatures, often over 40 degrees, during Luxor's summer just to entertain tourists. They stand in full sunshine waiting for customers whilst their drivers smoke in the shade. Their working day ends only when the last tourists return to their hotel. The visitors can sleep late the following morning but the carriage horses cannot. Something had to be done and so the seeds of ACE were sown
This UK based charity provides preventative care for the working animals in Egypt, mainly the horses that pull the caleches and the donkeys that transport goods and people. The idea was to provide a place where animals could be cared for and kept in good condition. Education is terribly important to overcome some of the neglect through ignorance that is endemic here. They have achieved much, but they need your help and support to continue. This vital charity has come near to closing on several different occasions due to lack of funding.
I am British and like a lot of Brits I am daft about my pets. I have adopted a lovely little cat which I have named Filfil. This means pepper and is meant to reflect her colouring, and she is a pretty thing. However I didnt really want her to have kittens as there are so many strays in Egypt already and I certainly didnt want to contribute to this growing population. Therefore, I decided to have Filfil nurtured.
But to get veterinary treatment for a small animal in Luxor is not easy. Egyptians dont really believe in pets and although many have cats in the home to keep down pests, they are not the pampered darlings of Western society. However, help was at hand. Although ACE was created to educate the local populous about animal care and to provide direct care for working animals it has been forced by circumstances to extend its services beyond mere care and into veterinary services. Thankfully for us cat owners, this means small animals as well. It was actually interesting to discover that there are different styles of nurturing a cat. In the UK vets are trained to operate on the flank, while in Egypt it is on the tummy. Anyway Filfil wont be adding to the stray cat population now.
While she recovered from the anesthetic I went to watch the activities of the centre. They welcome visitors and do sometimes conduct tours. When the animals arrive at the centre they are supposed to be kept in harness until they get inside, but some owners let them go immediately. Woe betide you if you are in the way of them and the sand bath. They love it, rolling around and getting at all those itches. Indeed the owners and staff have to work hard to get some of them out of there. Next they go to be inspected for any illnesses or wounds so that the centre can suggest appropriate treatment. There are currently two trained vets working here and a number of volunteers and local staff. Next they get a good wash and brush up. This does marvels for their overall condition and you can see they enjoy it.
That is the positive side of the centre but there are sadder stories. Egyptians arent cruel but they are often ignorant of the best care for their working animals. Traditions passed down from father to son will prevail over good animal husbandry, despite the fact that such an animal might represent the familys sole wealth. Therefore, the centre tries to educate the locals on the best practices, and this is paying dividends.
This picture shows just what can happen when firing (also known as burning) goes wrong. Before we tell you about firing please bear in mind that this animal is a prized possession and what has been done to it is out of ignorance NOT intended cruelty.
In essence, firing means the burning with red hot metal of various parts of a horse's or donkey's body. It has nothing in common with the Wild West branding of cattle. The worthless and very cruel practice of firing was common throughout Egypt but Animal Care in Egypt, through your donations, is rapidly putting a stop to it.
Firing is perpetrated by unqualified country people who, misguidedly, believe they are practicing equine medicine, the patients are over-ridden, over-worked, under-fed and under-valued horses and donkeys. These animals are essential for farm workers ekeing out a living along the length of the Nile, but because they are desperately poor with little or no education they turn to what their great-grandfathers believed in - firing - the traditional cure-all. Scientific veterinary practice is largely outside both their understanding and their economic reach. This is why Animal Care in Egypt must give its services free of charge.
The cruelty of firing is almost beyond description; it is certainly beyond educated belief. It takes place in the countryside, but it is not hidden as the practitioners are proud of their work and consider themselves to be "doctors". A roadside is often the surgery and any passer-by can stand and watch. Common hygiene is unknown as instruments lie around in the sand and dust. The only preparation the animal receives is to have its legs tied together and then be forced to the ground.
Firing can take place on virtually any part of the body but, in practice, it is done mainly on the legs as it is a common belief that this will make them "strong". Fat haunches are also thought to be a sign of strength for animals pulling carts, so firing under the tail where it joins the body is the fate of many draught animals. Firing the tip of a tail makes it fatter and stronger. Making limbs strong is probably the most frequent justification for firing. How deliberately wounding an equine is a recipe for increasing strength is a mystery to Animal Care in Egypt. Good diet, humane treatment and regular worming are what is needed. But firing is cheaper.
Infected swellings are treated by firing each side of the lump. Molasses are frequently put on wounds after firing. This, of course, adds to the torment, because the sweet, sticky substance attracts flies.
Firing abounds with myths. The firing 'doctor' deals with a broken leg by putting it in plaster for a fortnight and then the break should be fired on all four sides. They consider that the plaster would cure half the problem and firing the other half.
Firing is not practiced in developed countries with a tradition of veterinary service and most young veterinary surgeons have never encountered it. In Egypt, however, firing is commonplace - because the uneducated believe in it, because it is cheap, because anyone can practice it (there are no qualifications) and because it is traditional. Rural Egypt is tradition-bound but proper veterinary treatment is given at Animal Care in Egypt by Dr. David Mechelle Saweris E.V.M.S our resident fully trained and hard working veterinary surgeon.
Firing is neither legal nor illegal because it has never been covered by the law. It will take time and money for mind-sets are never changed overnight. We have almost put a stop to firing in Luxor by offering our free veterinary service but we can only keep offering this service with your donation.
Because the care is free to Egyptians they are prepared to bring their animals in to be looked after and listen to the words of wisdom from the staff. Injuries are treated in the small number of stalls and in the most severe case an animal will be painlessly put to sleep when its condition can no longer be treated. The owners will not do this. It goes against the traditions and beliefs so the centre has to buy the animal thereby becoming its official owner so that it can be put out of its pain.
As their current facilities are limited, operations have to be done on a rubber mattress on the ground outside. Indeed the small animal work is done at the managers desk. Fortunately, she thought ahead and had the desk top made of granite. But they never expected it to get quite the amount of use it does. They would like to expand and have a proper operating theatre but all this takes money. The centre, like many charities is desperate for money.
The only way to give these animals care is to offer it free of charge. So if you want to learn more about their work or make a donation please visit their web site, and if you happen to visit Luxor, make a point of visiting the centre and seeing for yourself the good work they do. Last update: May 12th, 2005 Archives