Taking equines to the heart of the international agenda *H&H Plus*

  • Horse & Hound finds out what positive steps Donkey Sanctuary has achieved on behalf of working equids during its first year of United Nations non-governmental organisation status...

    Taking equine welfare to the innermost workings of international government should help improve the lives of both people and horses.

    In its first year of having United Nations (UN) non-governmental organisation (NGO) status, the Donkey Sanctuary has taken great strides in pushing its agenda, including hosting an event at UN headquarters.

    The charity’s advocacy director Ian Cawsey told H&H about the sanctuary’s work within the UN’s sustainable development goals, to which all member nations have signed up with the aim of a “better and more sustainable future for all”.

    “The UN is very focused on human well-being,” he said. “There’s no problem with that, but we all share the planet and you can’t have it sustainable in a good state for one, but not something else. We’ve been working with the UN to find areas of common interest.”

    Mr Cawsey said equine welfare fits into a number of the goals, such as better food production and better livelihoods, as in many poorer countries, communities rely on working equids.

    “We know that when the equids are better looked after, the people who rely on them have better outcomes, too,” he said. “Even things like education or gender empowerment; if women and children don’t have a working animal to do things for them, or it’s sick, and they have to do it, that takes these away.

    “We want donkeys looked after better for their own sake, and because they’re incredible animals, but there’s also a real benefit to the communities that rely on them.”

    Mr Cawsey, who is also chair of the International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE), said a major aim is to encourage decision-makers to look at animal welfare and human development more holistically, and that together, ICWE members have the chance to have an influence.

    “We want to talk to governments about things they can put in their sustainable development goals plans, about supporting working animals so their economies can grow the way they want,” he said.

    Mr Cawsey added that the NGO accreditation means the charity is involved in relevant meetings and can have an influence, sometimes with decision-makers who had not previously taken working animals into account, because this has not occurred to them. But recently, equine welfare and issues have been mentioned in UN reports.

    World Horse Welfare international team director Liam Maguire added that better welfare for humans does not necessarily always mean better welfare for their equids.

    He pointed out, for example, that if an animal’s foot condition improves, this could mean it is worked harder, which may not be better for its welfare.

    “We need to find a way of improving both,” he told H&H. “If you rely on your equid for your livelihood and someone tells you, ‘You need to look after it better,’ but that costs money and doing it means your children go hungry, you can’t do it.”

    Mr Maguire said both charities are trying to work with human development organisations, citing as an example being able to secure credit for owners so they can buy better harnesses.

    “It’s so important as equine organisations that we understand how the whole livelihood system works,” he said. “That’s why the future is working with human development organisations, to get them to understand how important that equid is, and get them to include equine welfare in their plans, with us as partners.

    “That’s the way forward to have an impact; working in partnership with organisations and getting donors t0 understand how important working equids are in the sustainable development goals.”

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