International Working Animal Day shines a light on equine ‘essential workers’

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Spare a thought for the thousands of equines today who are toiling to provide for their impoverished owners in the developing world.

Today is International Working Animal Day, and animal charity Spana (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) is working to raise awareness about the essential role played by these animals around the world.

More than 200 million working animals – such as horses, donkeys, camels and elephants – support the livelihoods of over 600 million people in the world’s poorest communities. These hardworking animals provide the food, water and transport developing communities need to survive and also make it possible for impoverished families to earn a small income and put food on the table.

Yet, despite their critically important role, this invisible workforce all too often remains overlooked and neglected. Countless animals lead short, hard lives, working in extreme conditions, with little rest, poor nutrition and no access to veterinary treatment. And a survey last month of 2000 adults in the UK showed that 40 per cent had not even heard the term “working animal” before.

Working donkeys in Ethiopia. November 19 is International Working Animal Day, and animal charity Spana is working to raise awareness about the essential role played by working animals around the world.
Working donkeys in Ethiopia. November 19 is International Working Animal Day, and animal charity Spana is working to raise awareness about the essential role played by working animals around the world. © Spana

Spana Chief Executive Geoffrey Dennis says the importance of these animals is indisputable, “but sadly, they are often almost entirely ignored, without the recognition and support they urgently need”.

They do the jobs of trucks, tractors and taxis, and support the poorest families by carrying food, water and firewood. “Just one working animal can support an extended family of up to 30 people,” Dennis says.

“In many developing countries, working animals are essentially key workers – performing vital roles and working tirelessly every single day. However, too many of these animals face poor welfare, dangerous conditions and have no access to veterinary care.”

Spana Patron John Craven, OBE, FLS
Spana Patron John Craven, OBE, FLS

He said Spana, which was founded nearly 100 years ago, was working to help these animals to ensure they receive the veterinary attention they need, and it also provides education and training for communities to teach them how to better look after their animals.

Last year, it provided free veterinary treatment to more than 388,000 sick and injured working animals around the world. The charity also delivered humane education to almost 77,000 schoolchildren – the animal owners of tomorrow – helping them to develop positive attitudes and empathy towards animals.

Spana Patron John Craven OBE, FLS, said International Working Animal Day celebrates the animals who are key workers in the developing world. “These loyal animals work tirelessly and without complaint to ensure the survival of their communities.

“For thousands of working animals in developing communities, Spana provides their only hope for vital veterinary treatment.”

» Support Spana’s 5th annual International Working Animal Day

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