Dr Vijay gives animal welfare a big boost at India's equine fairs
The reopening of India's equine fairs after pandemic restrictions has brought some unique healthcare challenges, but thankfully Brooke India's teams are well equipped to meet them.
India is renowned for its exuberant festival culture, from the Diwali festival of lights to the epic Kumbh Mela, but what is less known is that its equine fairs are also major cultural events.
There is a lot more to these equine fairs than just the trading of animals – they are social gatherings, where rural families meet, dance and sing together. For example the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan, one of India's largest camel, horse and cattle fairs, has a religious significance as an important pilgrimage for Hindus to the Pushkar lake, and it is also a place for fun activities such as tug of war, camel races and the longest moustache competition!
When India was grappling with the most severe waves of COVID-19, these yearly events received a serious setback, and so did the people whose livelihoods were dependent upon the fairs. When COVID-19 cases fell, many fairs reopened. However, footfall was low so traders cut down on feed, fodder and transportation that resulted in higher numbers of equine health issues like wounds and impacted colic. This is where Dr Vijay Mella from Brooke India enters the story.
Dr Vijay and the team recognised a need they could fill and stepped up to the fore, and their intervention came as a great relief to both the equines and their owners:
“We set up a medical support and equine health awareness camp. We have senior vets, a veterinary assistant and farrier trainers. We have a Community Resource Person who supports us in educating the equine owners because they can speak in their local language. And they are well accepted by the equine owners and traders,” says Dr Vijay.
Dr Vijay emphasises that the aim is for sustainable rather than short term help:
Before, we were giving direct treatment services which made the equine owners dependent on us. So Brooke India changed its strategy and are mentoring Animal Health Practitioners, which is more sustainable.
Cases needing treatment have dropped from 75 to 11 thanks to the increase in welfare awareness among traders.
We met with Dr Vijay at the Nawabganj equine fair in the Uttar Pradesh region, and he spoke proudly of the reduction in animals needing treatment at the most recent fair.
As well as direct interventions at the fairs, Dr Vijay is keen to point out that Brooke India is looking at the wider picture.
“We are advocating with the national and state governments about equine fairs. We have been able to issue guidelines to them with Animal Welfare Board of India that state that proper facilities must be included in all equine fairs,” says Dr Vijay.
More than anything there is a real sense of pride when Dr Vijay describes his work for Brooke:
I love working in equine fairs because there is need for Brooke to be here as there are still a lot of welfare issues. It is an opportunity to share my knowledge and mentor Animal Health Practitioners, local vets and government vets.
The Brooke India team can be seen in this photo providing emergency veterinary services at Garh equine fair in Uttar Pradesh.
The team has gone on to help horses, donkeys and mules at world renowned Pushkar Mela fair in Rajasthan, Garh Mukhteshwara, Madhiyai and Bateshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Lakhnauta Mela in Uttarakhand.