New UN definitions recognise horses and donkeys as working livestock

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Thousands of horses, donkeys and mules work in brick kilns across Central Asia. In India alone, 50,000 brick kilns produce 140 billion bricks annually. The Brooke works in several hundred kilns to improve the lives of the animals who toil in these harsh environments alongside their poor owners.
One of thousands of horses, donkeys and mules who work in brick kilns across Central Asia.

Horses, donkeys and mules have been official recognised as livestock by the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS), thanks to advocacy efforts by world animal charity Brooke.

The decision means that contribution of working livestock to food security and nutrition has been officially recognised. Until now, the definition of livestock in UN food security policies has included only animals that produce food directly, such as cows and sheep.

But now the draught power that working animals provide in producing and distributing food is now also formally acknowledged in the CFS definition of Livestock.

The decision on October 16 in Rome by UN member states is a significant step for working livestock in the UN food security agenda. It also adds huge strength to Brooke’s work with national governments to ensure the inclusion of horses, donkeys and mules in their livestock policies and legislation.

Working horses, donkeys and mules are often suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition, and abuse as a result of excessive workloads and limited animal health services in developing countries.
© The Brooke

Petra Ingram, Chief Executive for Brooke said the recognition for equines was the result of months of negotiations. “I’m incredibly proud of the tenacity of our team in getting us to this point,” she said.

“Brooke’s next challenge is to take this UN endorsement to national governments and help them adapt their livestock policies to include equine welfare.”

Horses, donkeys and mules benefit poorer people and smallholders by enabling and facilitating food production indirectly. They help their owners earn the income used to buy food for their families, as well as transporting food from market to the homestead. They are also used for ploughing, sowing and tilling the fields where food is grown, and transporting the feed and water needed for food production livestock.

Speaking at the CFS43 Annual Plenary, Ali Camara, the Executive Secretary of Senegal’s National Food Security Council, made an impassioned statement about the importance of working animals to the livelihoods of African communities.

After the recommendations were endorsed he said: “It’s been long recognised that food producing livestock help people to improve their lives and put food on the table, but these beasts of burden, the animals that carry produce and work the land, have been ignored. They need special consideration, so I am delighted to see the CFS giving them the recognition they deserve.”

Brooke also joined representatives from the governments of Senegal and Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, and the University of Winchester, for a side event discussing the role of livestock in sustainable agriculture.

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