15 November 2015

Working livestock is invisible, claims Brooke in new report

The contribution of working horses, donkeys and mules to the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest people is overlooked, leaving working equines invisible in livestock policy and suffering as a result, a new report from international equine welfare charity Brooke claims.

A donkey carrying goods

 ©The Brooke/ Delphine Valette

The Invisible Workers report (PDF 5.9Mb), released today alongside a policy event in London to discuss the issues, presents evidence showing how working horses, donkeys and mules around the world enable their owners to earn money, to feed, clothe and educate their families. These animals work in many areas including construction, agriculture and public transport. Many of them work every day, with inadequate access to food or water, and suffering from wounds, disease and lameness.

Case study

Kawar Pal is 35, and lives close to and trades in Baghpat market to support his wife and three children.

Kawar has one mule, a mare aged 15. Two months ago his mule fell whilst at home, and fell onto a wooden stake used to tie her up. This caused internal injuries - a haematoma. Kawar’s mule was given an operation by a Brooke vet, and had to rest from work for two weeks. Kawar was extremely grateful for what the Brooke did, but said that it was a hard time for those two weeks, because he couldn't earn the money he needed to support his family.

My mule earns the money I use to provide the food for my family and it also gets my children to school. I had to borrow money when she was sick, so I don't know what I'd do without her. The Brooke has given me back my livelihood.

Kawar Pal

Brooke community motivators are doing work in villages to avoid accidents like this. On advice from them, many villages now use half buried old tyres to secure ropes, instead of the dangerous wooden stakes.

Livestock policy and international development programmes exist to make sure that owners can properly care for the animals that contribute to their livelihoods. However, currently the animals included in these policies and programmes are limited to the ones that directly produce food or fabrics, like cows, chickens and goats. Despite the massive contribution working equines make, they’re not considered ‘critical’ livestock. The Brooke wants this to change.

In the developed world, it’s easy to forget that horses once provided a great deal of labour to every-day people.

For 600 million people around the world today that is still the reality - over 100 million horses, donkeys and mules in the world are supporting their livelihoods. If people lose those animals because they don’t have access to welfare resources like vaccinations and health programmes, the impact can be devastating.

Working animals are the invisible powerhouses of the developing world. We want all policy makers to properly recognise the important role they play in supporting the lives of their owners.

Petra Ingram, Chief Executive of Brooke


Download the full report and an infographic that shows the many ways in which working equines contribute to people's livelihoods.

Note: in the report, the figure of 112 million working animals, provided by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2014, refers to all working horses, donkeys and mules in the world, including those in developed countries. The number in developing countries is estimated at just over 100 million.