A lifetime of hard work: Plight of working equines in spotlight

Donkeys at work with their owner in Zimbabwe.
Donkeys at work with their owner in Zimbabwe. © Spana

Today is International Working Animal day, honouring more than 200 million working horses, donkeys, camels, elephants and other animals who do the jobs of trucks, tractors, and taxis.

By transporting goods and people, they make it possible for over half a billion people in the poorest communities to earn a small income.

But, like their owners, working animals must work for their entire lives, and never get to have holidays or retire. They often face punishing conditions, pulling heavy loads for many hours in sweltering temperatures, without vital veterinary treatment.

Working donkeys in Mali.
Working donkeys in Mali. © Spana/Dylan Thomas Photography

Animal welfare charity Spana believes a life of work shouldn’t mean a life of suffering. In marking the fourth annual International Working Animal day, Spana has garnered the support of well known English businesswoman and Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, and Irish-English comedian, television presenter, actor, writer, and radio DJ Paul O’Grady.

Deborah Meaden
Deborah Meaden
Paul O'Grady and Eddie. Paul O’Grady and Eddie

Awareness of the plight of working animals is still very low in Britain. New research shows that 62 per cent of people have never even heard the term ‘working animal’ before.

Meaden noted that workplaces in Britain had changed beyond recognition in the past few decades – and conditions for workers had generally improved enormously. “But for most working animals overseas nothing ever changes. They face the same punishing conditions day-in, day-out, working in extreme temperatures and carrying backbreaking loads.

“On International Working Animal Day, please support SPANA’s work to ensure these hardworking horses, donkeys, elephants and camels receive the vital veterinary treatment they need and that their welfare is improved,” she said.

O’Grady said it was heartbreaking to see how hard some animals have to work around the world. “Despite how important they are, many will lead short, painful lives. Hardly any receive even basic vet care when they’re sick or injured, as it’s often not available and their owners simply can’t afford it. They deserve better.

“That’s why I support Spana, the charity that gets free lifesaving vet care to working animals. We need governments and aid organisations around the world to recognise the massive contribution of working animals and to make sure they get the treatment, care, and compassion they deserve.”

Spana’s International Working Animal Day was launched in 2016 to raise awareness about the vital role played by working animals in developing countries around the world. Spana has been the charity for the working animals of the world since 1923, providing free veterinary care to horses, donkeys, mules, elephants, and camels in some of the world’s poorest countries.

It improves the welfare of working animals in three ways: Free veterinary treatment, education and training, and emergency and outreach projects.

3 thoughts on “A lifetime of hard work: Plight of working equines in spotlight

  • June 16, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    so you have outlined the problem how do we stop it? Until we raise the lives of people and educate them how do we stop this? This is heartbreaking.

  • June 17, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Not just in poor countries. So called civilized countries like the USA have hardworking equids, like those trecking visitors up and down the Grand Canyon and to Havasupai Falls as run by the Native American Havasupai tribe. Others include those used by the Amish. All used up and thrown away.

  • July 7, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    “By the sweat of thy brow shalt tho earn thy bread all the days of thy life. ” Thank God if you are able and feel sorry for those who can’t or don’t or won’t. Applies to both 2 legged and 4 legged animals.


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