The International Coalition of Working Equids (ICWE), made up of Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare, came together for a workshop as part of the 7th Pan Commonwealth Veterinary Conference held in Bangalore, India.

The workshop, which took place 4 - 7 March, focused on the critical role of working horses, donkeys and mules in sustainable development, welfare issues in brick kilns, community programmes and the training of veterinarians in animal welfare.

An estimated 100 million working horses, donkeys and mules contribute to the livelihoods of many poor communities around the world. Yet, their contribution does not receive the same recognition as other livestock in policies and programmes. Furthermore, gaps in education and training of animal health practitioners and lack of awareness of good welfare practices among equine owners mean that all over the world equids suffer unnecessarily.

ICWE was set up in 2016 following the adoption of global welfare standards for working horses, donkeys and mules by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The coalition of charities committed to supporting the implementation of these standards around the world, and have previously organised OIE-hosted working equid awareness days with welfare focal points in Africa as well as the OIE general sessions.

ICWE Stall at CVA conference
ICWE conference stall. Member Left to Right: Emma Hales - World Horse Welfare, Dr Shereene Williams – Brooke, Dr Roly Owers - World Horse Welfare, Dr Ramesh Kumar - Donkey Sanctuary India, Dr Joe Collins - Donkey Sanctuary.
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This week saw the first activity outside collaboration with OIE. The coalition put together a popular exhibition stand where conference delegates could learn more about equine welfare standards. In addition, Brooke India had its own stall, where the highlight was an innovative virtual reality video illustrating challenges of life in brick kilns in South Asia for animals and the people who rely on them.

At a time in which there are over 100 million equids working across the globe to support some of our poorest communities, a coalition of charities in the name of good international veterinary care is more vital than ever. Mike Baker, The Donkey Sanctuary's Chief Executive, said:

“Trade in donkey skins poses a severe threat to donkey welfare. Imagine a world without donkeys and mules – how much poorer it would be for people who live in it. Donkeys are vital to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people.”

President of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association, Pete Thornber, reflected on the event:

“CVA strongly supports ICWE in its mission and recognises the importance of the working equids sector across ICWE members and elsewhere. We have a long history of working together with the coalition partners. I’m really pleased to see a strong presence from ICWE at the seventh Pan Commonwealth Veterinary Conference.”

In the coming months, the ICWE coalition will be involved in producing practical guidance to implement OIE standards on equine welfare to support World Bank projects. It will also be present at a range of high-level international forums, such as the United Nations High Level Political Forum in New York as well as the All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture conference in Accra, Ghana, continuing to advocate for working equids.