Working like a horse

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Working like a horse

Working animals are very important for a billion poor people in the world. So if we help animals, this helps people too. Carol Davis explains.


Part of the family: a boy in Zimbabwe waits for his donkey to get medical help (© SPANA)

About a billion poor people in the world rely on animals to live, for transport and to earn their money. But many people don’t have the money for veterinary care. So, last year, the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) gave free veterinary treatment to more than 360,000 horses, donkeys, mules, camels and other working animals.

‘I am a vet, so I’m trained to care for animals. But my personal motivation is that helping animals helps people,’ says Laura Higham (SPANA veterinary programme adviser). ‘Families in sub-Saharan Africa often rely on a horse or donkey to take their goods to market, and to prepare the fields. I really want to support this very important relationship in places where there is no veterinary help.’

SPANA treats animals and also trains vets, horse specialists and animal health workers. In Morocco, it works with local authorities to inspect horse-taxis. They are now trying out this system in Tunisia and Ethiopia.

Working animals can be a very important for local people, says Jane Harry, a vet who also works for the charity. She says that 98 per cent of the 100 million working equids (horses, donkeys and mules) worldwide never see a vet.

She did de-worming treatment for 750 equids in Morocco, and she treated a small boy’s donkey. ‘He was blind, and thanked us for helping to keep his donkey healthy,’ Harry says. ‘He said, “The donkey is my eyes”.’

The health of working animals can mean life or death to local communities, says Jeremy Hulme (CEO of SPANA). ‘A smallholding farmer in the Middle East said to me, “I have 10 children. If one of them is sick, it’s very sad and worrying. But I have only one cow, and if she is sick, it’s a much bigger problem.”’

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