Huge steps for Afghanistan in equine welfare

A donkey in Afghanistan with slit nostrils.
A donkey in Afghanistan with slit nostrils.

The barbaric practice of slitting the nostrils of working donkeys is declining in Afghanistan as villagers realise it does not help their animals breathe better.

Slitting of the nostrils is crudely accomplished using knives, scissors or other sharp objects without anesthesia. It is done in the mistaken belief that it improves the airflow into the nose and hence is better for the donkeys when they are working hard in the thin air of the mountains.

International equine welfare charity Brooke has made huge strides in curbing the mutilation of donkeys in the war-ravaged country. As is common in poor and remote communities with no access to outside healthcare for people or animals, equine owners resort to traditional, and often harmful, remedies for illness or injury.

The Brooke team also saw donkeys with slit ears; and apparently some believe that donkey blood can treat bad burns.

In Afghan villages where there are traditional healers, in-country Brooke teams, supported by donations through Brooke USA, have been working closely with them, as well as the community itself, to stamp out these practices. In all eight of the Brooke-supported villages recently visited by outside Brooke teams, only a few donkeys still had slit nostrils. All of the villagers interviewed were excited to point out that they no longer practiced this and that the donkeys with slit nostrils and ears were older and had the mutilation done in the distant past.

None of the younger animals seen in those eight villages had their nostrils or ears slit.

Thankfully, the practise of nostril slitting in donkeys appears to be a relic of the past.
Thankfully, the practice of nostril slitting in donkeys appears to be a relic of the past.

Continuous droughts and ongoing internal warfare in Afghanistan make it a challenging country for animal charities to accomplish much. But since 2008 Brooke has been committed to helping the country’s 1.7 million working horses and donkeys with a primary focus on improving animal welfare through changes in human behavior.

Afghanistan has the 12th highest density of working horses and donkeys in the world. Many are vulnerable, working in difficult conditions, pulling and carrying heavy loads in brick kilns and urban areas. Brooke is training Afghan para-vets to provide access to animal healthcare in the villages while working with entire communities to stamp out mutilations and other harmful practices for these hard-working animals.


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