31 March 2017

Nose slitting in Afghanistan

Brooke’s Head of Animal Welfare Capacity, Karen Reed, recalls visit to Afghanistan to see how Brooke is helping reduce nose slitting in villages.

Every meal in Afghanistan is accompanied by tasty, traditional bread, large flat loaves, freshly baked. It seems that every house or restaurant bakes different patterns and styles; there are rectangles, ovals, decorative patterns of cuts and markings made by spiked implements.

Cuts and markings of a different and unpleasant kind are where Brooke has been making progress. As is common in poor and remote communities with no access to outside healthcare for people or animals, people resort to traditional, and often harmful, remedies for illness or injury.

Nostril slitting

It is still common in Afghanistan to see donkeys with slit nostrils – this was done in the mistaken belief that it improves the airflow into the nose and hence is better for the donkeys when they are working hard in the thin air of the mountains. We even saw one donkey which also had slit ears – people told us this was done in the past when people had a bad burn – donkey blood was considered good for burns.

Nostril slitting

Where there are traditional healers in the villages Brooke staff have been working closely with them as well as the community itself to stamp out these practices and it seems to be working.

In the eight Brooke-supported villages we were able to visit we still did see a few donkeys with slit nostrils but all the groups of men and women we spoke to were keen to point out that they no longer practiced this and that the donkeys we saw were older and had the mutilation done in the distant past.

Certainly we saw younger animals which had not had their nostrils or ears slit. This work with communities, as well as Brooke training local paravets to provide access to animal healthcare in the villages, is all working towards stamping out harmful mutilations and practices.


Afghanistan has the twelfth highest density of working horses and donkeys in the world. Many are vulnerable, working in difficult conditions, pulling and carrying heavy loads in brick kilns and urban areas.