World first as OIE approves global working equine standards

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The OIE has approved new welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules around the world.
The OIE has approved new welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules around the world. © Freya Dowson/The Brooke

Global welfare standards for working horses, donkey and mules have been approved by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The OIE has worked closely with The Brooke in developing the standards over the past three years, with the charity providing expertise and technical input. Some 180 countries will commit to undertake the recommendations that were approved by the OIE’s World Assembly in Paris on May 25.

Standards for animal welfare already exist for other animals such as those used in food production, but until now, working horses, donkeys and mules have been largely overlooked by governments and policy makers.

The standards focus specifically on horses, donkeys and mules. For working equines, the standards set out guidelines on various aspects of their lives to make sure they have good welfare. Recommendations relate to food and water provision, shelter, prevention and treatment of disease, handling, equipment, behaviour and general workload. They even extend to care at the end of their working lives. Governments all over the world will be responsible for enforcing them alongside the OIE’s other standards for animal welfare.

Karen Reed, Head of Animal Welfare Capacity at Brooke, was one of the key technical experts supporting the OIE whilst they developed the standards.

“These standards represent the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to animal welfare. At Brooke we often say that the horses, donkeys and mules of the world are the invisible workers, because in terms of their welfare, there is little being done at a government or international level. These standards will help us to change that,” Reed said.

However, the animal welfare standards will not be law. The next steps are to ensure they are first adopted and understood but then properly implemented in the member countries. Brooke will be supporting governments to do this.

Fred Ochieng, Head of Brooke East Africa, will be part of the Kenya Delegation. He welcomed the standards, saying the move was a dream come true.

“Having standards to protect horses and donkeys is long overdue. In many regions in East Africa, unless a donkey goes to work a family may not have any food to eat, a kid may not go to school or a pregnant lady may not have access to clinical services,” Ochieng said.

“Here, when you sit down to breakfast each morning, the bread or the coffee you have has probably at some point been transported by a working horse or donkey. That is how useful these animals are, and the reason why we must all care and protect them. The standards will help us do more for the animals.”

Brooke Chief executive Petra Ingram said the standards were a major success that clearly demonstrated Brooke’s global reach.

“I’m very proud of the team. The collaboration with OIE means that we can positively impact animals even in countries where we’re not physically on the ground.

“This opens the door for us to work with governments to implement the standards. This is a big step towards getting working horses, donkeys and mules the attention they deserve, for the role they play in helping millions of people work their way out of poverty.”

www.brooke.org

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