India's brick kiln challenges

We work in 3,245 brick kiln sites offering emergency vet treatment and vaccinations as well as advice on disease prevention. To bring about lasting change, we also engage local service providers such as farriers, saddlers and cart makers which are often difficult for poor communities to access.

Loading bricks at a kiln in India

Credit/Copyright - Freya Dowson.

With an output of 140 billion bricks per year, India is the world's second largest brick producer. The conditions in the brick kilns are harsh for the animals who work tirelessly to help their owners earn a living. The process is largely manual and there is little or no technology involved. Extreme temperatures, lack of shade, difficult terrain and overloading can cause suffering for horses, donkeys and mules. Disease and injuries are common.

Equine working patterns in India's brick kilns

Infographic showing the average loads and distances of working equines

Our work at BK Tayal kiln

"Brooke started working at the BK Tayal kiln in early January 2011 and the 14 buggiewalas [equine owners who transport bricks from the moulding site to the kiln] have mostly migrated from other villages to work here.

"From Brooke’s initial assessment, the condition of the animals here is better than some others in the area."

Since the work began, one owner now has his own first aid kit and has treated one animal for colic, while the Brooke has treated other animals for lameness and an eye condition. Colic is the main problem in the BK Tayal kiln and the vets report between 25 and 100 cases during the brick kiln season.

Dr Sanjay Sharma, Veterinary Officer at the BK Tayal kiln, Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, India

"Buggiewalas feed their equines as much as possible during the season, thinking this will make the animals stronger and able to work harder. In reality, their stomachs cannot cope with what sometimes amounts to double their usual amount of food and their digestive system becomes blocked, resulting in colic.

“The Brooke team is advising on this right now, but it takes time to convince the owners of the Brooke’s advice to not feed the animal for 24 hours after an attack of colic."

Glanders is an infectious equine disease that is still prominent in parts of India today. It causes suffering and inevitable death to equines.

Our horses are our only support - if anything happens to them, we will be ruined. I am so thankful to Brooke for helping me take care of my horses so that they can help take care of our lives.

The burden of debt - Nasheema's story

Forced to work to pay off dowry debts for her sister, Nasheema - 18 years old - migrated 15km with her father for a season of hard labour at a brick kiln in Nethla, Uttar Pradesh. Nasheema, along with many other women, makes up to 13 journeys a day with her horse Raju pulling loaded carts of unbaked bricks from the moulding site to the firing kiln. Raju pulls a total of 4,000 bricks a day, helping Nasheema to earn 400 Indian Rupees - about £5.50 a day. Half the money she earns goes on feeding Raju so paying off the loan is slow.

My father took out loans for my elder sister’s dowry so she could be married into a good family. Now I must work to repay this. It’s my dream to earn enough money for my future, so that my father doesn’t have to borrow money from anyone again.

Nasheema

Nasheema relies on Raju to help her family meet the repayments, so when he was wounded she felt she had no choice but to continue to put him to work, unaware of the impact carrying further heavy loads would have on him.

When Brooke's veterinary team met Nasheema, they found Raju limping. His wound was cleaned with antiseptic and bandaged, and he was given a tetanus injection. Brooke advised Nasheema to let Raju rest for two days to allow the wound to heal.

“Our horses are our only support - if anything happens to them, we will be ruined. I am so thankful to Brooke for helping me take care of my horses so that they can help take care of our lives."

By helping each other and saving money together, the horse owners can deal with the needs that arise, including money matters and buying feed for our animals.

Heat stress

Kallu, 28, works as a buggy driver at the brick kiln in Bhadoli Village, northern India. When his horse died of colic, he bought two-year-old Baadshah to pull the cart, transporting as many as 4,000 bricks every day from the moulding site to the kiln. Kallu depends on Baadshah to earn a daily income of 350 Indian rupees - around £5 - to support his wife and three young children.

It’s hard work, and when Baadshah began showing symptoms of heat stress in the hot, dusty atmosphere of the kilns, Kallu knew he needed to see a vet so he took Baadshah to the Brooke mobile veterinary clinic in Chacharpur.

The vet diagnosed heat stress and gave him Novalgin, a painkiller which also reduces temperature, and advised Kallu on how to keep his horse healthy and prevent stomach infections by making sure that dust and dirt didn't get into his feed.

“My horse Ablak died because I didn’t know about surgical colic, but I won’t let the same thing happen to Baadshah. He is healthy and not suffering because I am taking care of him because of the advice from the Brooke,” says Kallu.

Kallu is also involved in the brick kiln’s ‘Peer Baba’ equine welfare group. Kallu adds: “By helping each other and saving money together, the horse owners can deal with the needs that arise, including money matters and buying feed for our animals.”

Help us reach more horses, donkeys and mules working in harsh conditions all over world.

News

On 23 January Brooke launched Brick Kiln Week, an online campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of South Asia’s brick kilns on working equines, people and the environment.

A new report highlights the challenges of South Asia’s brick making industry by looking at human labour, working animal welfare, and the environment together.