Working Livestock and the Sustainable Development Goals: in pictures
These pictures show how horses, donkeys and mules contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, living alongside humans and other livestock.
SDG 1: No Poverty
Now included in the definition of livestock by the United Nations, horses, donkeys and mules generate income through their work in agriculture, construction, extractive industries, tourism and transport. 100 million of these animals support the livelihoods of 600 million people in some of the world’s poorest countries.
SDG 2: Zero Hunger
Horses, donkeys and mules work in agriculture and food production: soil tillage, producing manure fertilizer, and transport of livestock, feed, water or produce to the market. Income from other work that they do helps the owners buy food for their families.
Working animals generate income that helps families pay for medical bills. In remote areas and during disasters and emergencies, the animals provide the fastest and most reliable transport to a health clinic. Around the world, interaction with animals reduces stress and contributes to wellbeing and good mental health.
SDG 4: Quality Education
The work performed by working livestock generates income that helps families pay for school fees and supplies. In remote rural areas horses and donkeys transport children to and from school.
SDG 5: Gender Equality
Women across the world depend on working livestock to support them with time consuming tasks such as fetching water. Income from working animals helps women pay for household essentials. Caring for and owning animals gives them a sense of agency and increases their social status.
Working animals provide access to water for people and to all food producing animals. Without their help, people - especially women and girls who may be taken out of school - often have to walk for hours to fetch water from remote sources.
Horses, donkeys and mules boost community resilience in the face of disasters and climate shocks. They enable communities to collect water or food from greater distances, helping families to relocate when needed, and even rebuild infrastructure.
Millions of people depend on the labour and income their working animals provide. However, the increasing demand for donkey hide products puts the long-term income of millions of families at risk. The trade also represents a growing biodiversity threat if donkey numbers dwindle, and an increased risk of disease spreading if donkeys continue to be illegally transported across borders.
SDG 17: Partnership for the goals
The vital contribution of working livestock to sustainable development is largely overlooked. By working together, organizations that focus on human development, animal welfare and the environment can help meet the SDGs by 2030.
Some photos featured in this article show examples of welfare or handling that aren't best practice. However, they show the reality of everyday life for working equine animals and their owners. Brooke concentrates on where the need is greatest, and works hard to improve welfare practices