UK charities give a voice to working equines in Asia Pacific region

Leading animal welfare charities recently came together in Bali, Indonesia, to support governments in improving the welfare of working equids in the Asia Pacific region.

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The seminar was part of a training programme organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to promote best practice in the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules.

The International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE), which includes charities Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare, presented a half day programme during the seminar.

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ICWE formed as a coalition to improve communications with the OIE and other international organisations and help implement the OIE chapter on the welfare of working equids, as well as encourage ongoing improvements to welfare for working equids across the globe.

Part of the coalition’s work is to attend and host sessions on working equids during OIE-organised ‘focal point’ seminars, where countries within the relevant region are invited to send a government representative (focal point) to attend. The seminars give ICWE the opportunity to provide training for governments in the importance of working equids and their welfare needs and to provide support in the implementation of the OIE’s working equid welfare guidelines.

The Bali seminar covered the entire Asia Pacific region and representatives from most of the 33 eligible countries attended, indicating broad support for the process. Equids across the Asia Pacific region work in agriculture, tourism, transport of commodities, including bricks in brick kilns, and are also kept in farmed conditions.

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Veterinary Advisor at The Donkey Sanctuary, Linda Evans, held an interactive session with the rest of the ICWE team on the use of equid specific welfare assessments, issues for working equids in the region and the challenges of implementation.

EARS welfare tool training in Pakistan.

Naeem Abbas, Advocacy Manager for Brooke in Pakistan, brought with him extensive knowledge of South Asia’s brick kilns, where around 500,000 horses, donkeys and mules carry bricks for up to eight hours each day, but have little or no health and welfare services. Naeem was able to present a case study, and also show the seminar’s Focal Points and representatives how extensive the issues are in this harsh environment through a 360° video on a virtual reality headset, produced by Brooke.

World Horse Welfare Programme Officer, Vicki Newton, gave an introductory presentation on ICWE and working equids; Natasha Lee, the charity’s Regional Coordinator for Asia, presented a case study of working equids used in transport and tourism focusing on projects in Cambodia and Nepal.

Ian Cawsey, ICWE Chair and Director of Advocacy at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “This event is part of our global effort to improve the care and welfare of working equids. The challenge of translating agreed global welfare standards to practical skills and knowledge in the field is a very great one. However, we value the support, relationship and commitment we get from the OIE and we will continue to work together for the best possible outcomes for these animals, wherever they are.”