There’s been some encouraging progress in our work with the donkey and mule owners in the brick kilns at Badli, near New Delhi. As the brick kiln season came to an end in June, our team carried out routine welfare checks on the donkeys and mules, and saw evidence that their work has helped reduce the back wounds donkeys commonly develop from carrying panniers of bricks without enough padding underneath.
The end of the season used to be a time when any existing wounds would get worse, because owners were under pressure to finish producing the number of bricks specified in their contracts. Our team used to see donkeys being made to work despite these painful wounds, and they made special efforts to target this particular welfare problem.
Our Community Development and Education Officer, Saswati, said, “We carried out wound prevention sessions, and we showed the owners how to clean wounds with salt water and apply ointment. We showed them how to make their own ointment with turmeric and mustard oil.
“Now, the wounds we’ve seen are smaller than last year, and we’re seeing cleaned wounds with the ointment on them. Last year it was different, they used to clean the wounds when we were there or when we asked them to. Now they are doing it on their own. This is giving us immense happiness.”
This story makes me feel happy too, because it shows – yet again - that people’s behaviour towards their donkeys does change, once they start seeing the real benefits of the practices and techniques our team teach them. Yes, of course it takes time – we all know from our own lives that bad habits and misguided ways of thinking don’t disappear overnight, even when we want them to. But in these kilns, the people have been taking extra care of their donkeys at a time of year when the pressure to work them harder was particularly high, and that’s very encouraging.