Working Horses Are Invisible, Claims the Brooke in New Report

Lexington, Kentucky – Nov. 16, 2015 – A new report from the world's largest international equine welfare charity, the Brooke, found that the contribution of working horses, donkeys and mules to the livelihoods of some of the world's poorest people is overlooked, leaving working equines invisible in livestock policy and suffering as a result.

"Invisible Workers," released today, presents evidence showing how working horses, donkeys and mules around the world enable their owners to earn money, feed, clothe and educate their families. These animals work in many areas including construction, agriculture and public transportation. Many of them work every day, with inadequate access to food or water, and suffering from wounds, disease and lameness.

Livestock policy and international development programs exist to make sure that owners can properly care for the animals that contribute to their livelihoods. However, currently the animals included in these policies and programs are limited to the ones that directly produce food or fabrics, like cows, chickens and goats. Despite the massive contribution working equines make, they're not considered "critical" livestock. The Brooke wants this to change.

Petra Ingram, chief executive of the Brooke said, "In the industrialized world such as the U.S., it's easy to forget that horses once provided a great deal of labor to every-day people. For 600 million people in the developing world today that is still the reality — 112 million horses, donkeys and mules are supporting their livelihoods. If people lose those animals because they don't have access to welfare resources like vaccinations and health programs, the impact can be devastating.

"Working animals are the invisible powerhouses of the developing world," Ingram continued. "We want all policy makers to properly recognize the important role they play in supporting the lives of their owners."

The Brooke is holding an event today to bring together influential partners including the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, to discuss the next steps to getting these animals recognized on the world food security agenda.

For more than 80 years the Brooke has been dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules in the world's poorest communities. Evidence-based research has proven that animal suffering is preventable and that good animal welfare protects human livelihoods. 112 million working equines are the engines that power the developing world, doing the hardest jobs under the toughest conditions to support the livelihoods of 600 million people. That's 9 percent of the world's population. The Brooke works with owners, communities and policy makers to bring about lasting improvements to the lives of working animals. Operating in 11 different countries, and funding projects in four others, the Brooke now reaches more than 1.8 million working horses, donkeys and mules — more than any other organization. It is on target to reach two million working equines each year by 2016. The American affiliate, Brooke USA, is headquartered at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington and exists to support the overseas work of the Brooke.


To read the report, "Invisible Workers," visit To find out how you can support the Brooke, visit or contact Cindy Rullman, Brooke USA, 859-296-0037 or

Case Study


Kawar Pal is 35 years old and lives close to — and trades in — Baghpat market in India, earning around 300–400 INR ($4–$6 per day) to support his wife and three children. Kawar has one mule, a mare aged 15. Two months ago his mule fell onto a wooden stake used to tie her up. This caused internal injuries including a haematoma. A Brooke veterinarian performed surgery, so the mare had to rest from work for two weeks. Kawar was extremely grateful for what the Brooke did, but said that it was a hard time during those two weeks, because he couldn't earn the money he needed to support his family.

Kawar said, "My mule earns the money I use to provide the food for my family and it also gets my children to school. I had to borrow money when she was sick, so I don't know what I'd do without her. The Brooke has given me back my livelihood."

The Brooke works in many of the poorest villages in the world to avoid accidents like this. On advice from them, many villages now use half-buried discarded tires to secure ropes, instead of the dangerous wooden stakes.