The Duke of Edinburgh, never one to mince his words, reaches his 90th birthday today defending ageism and dismissing animals rights activists as "bunny huggers". Admitting he is approaching his own "sell-by date", Prince Philip said the physical and mental fragilities that come with age mean discrimination on the grounds of age can be justified. "There is an ageism in this country, as everywhere, and quite rightly so, because I think you go down hill, physically, mentally and everything," he said in an interview on BBC1 last night. "It's better to get out before you reach the sell-by date".
He said his memory was not what it was and that it was time to reduce his workload and patronages. "You don't really want nonagenarians as heads of organisations which are trying to do something useful. I reckon I've done my bit; I want to enjoy myself for a bit now. With less responsibility, less rushing about, less preparation, less trying to think of something to say. On top of that, your memory's going, I can't remember names. Yes, I'm just sort of winding down."
During almost 60 years as the Queen's consort, he has worked with about 800 charities and other organisations. Among them is the wildlife charity WWF, but he still condemned as bunny huggers those conservationists who become overly concerned about animal rights. He said one of his biggest problems was to find himself a role. "There was no precedent. If I asked somebody, 'What do you expect me to do?' they all looked blank; they had no idea, nobody had much idea," he said. He began working with charitable and community organisations, starting with the National Playing Fields Association, now called Fields in Trust.