UN to explore links between working animal welfare, environment and sustainable development

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Donkeys take on the heavy burden of carrying supplies, water and firewood for their owners in many countries.
Donkeys take on the heavy burden of carrying supplies, water and firewood for their owners in many countries. © The Donkey Sanctuary

A report on the links between animal welfare, the environment and sustainable development has been commissioned by the United Nations.

A motion to the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) that was drafted by a committee of animal welfare groups including The Donkey Sanctuary, was tabled by several African governments before being agreed unanimously by all 193 governments that make up the UNEA.

The report will be a collaborative effort by the UNEP (UN Environmental Programme), the FAO (UN Food & Agriculture Organisation), WHO (World Health Organisation), OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and the high-level expert panel for One Health.

It is hoped that the initiative will help improve the value of working equines and raise global welfare standards for animals and humans in line with the aims of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include good health and clean water for all, to be achieved by 2030.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Ian Cawsey, said it was a great result for  donkeys and mules everywhere, as well as for other animals and humans alike.

“The international animal welfare world sometimes feels like a family, especially when we come together. There is much hard work ahead but the need for action to find solutions has never been more obvious. This is a great opportunity to build integrated solutions the world desperately needs,” Cawsey said

“For too long issues have been considered in isolation when the combination of reckless human and animal interaction, unsustainable living and the exploitation of the environment is leading to biosecurity risks creating a dangerous future for us all.”

Cawsey noted that there were more than 50 million working donkeys and mules supporting communities globally. “When these animals are well cared for they contribute to sustainable living and help people access safe, clean water as well as offering assistance and recovery following climate events.”

Donkeys are also under threat from the unsustainable trade in their skins, which are used in the production of a traditional Chinese remedy called ejiao. Donkeys are increasingly being stolen, killed often illegally and their skins stored and transported in ways that pose grave biosecurity risks. Vulnerable communities not only lose valuable working animals, but they are also put at risk from health dangers posed by the trade.

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