Witnessing first-hand the work of our partner Animal Nepal, it's clear that great progress is being made in the brick kilns, but there's more still to do.
We recently visited several of the kilns within a two-hour radius of the country’s capital, Kathmandu — some in the Lalitpur region and others in the more remote hills of Dhading.
We were there to monitor the working and living conditions of mules and donkeys, and to assess the impact of the ongoing welfare work of our charity partner, Animal Nepal. We'll be taking a look at examples of good and bad practice; standards are improving significantly at some kilns, while others remain distressingly poor.
Our longstanding collaboration with Animal Nepal’s vets, education officers and advocacy staff is making a positive difference. There’s clearly a stark contrast between those kilns where welfare training and advocacy work are making a sustainable difference, and those kilns where new workers have not yet benefitted from the guidance of vets and education officers.
The generosity of our supporters has funded the off-road truck and motorbikes that enable both training workshops and daily responses to emergency veterinary calls in the mountainous terrain around the kilns. Both tasks are essential but the goal is to influence lasting change that reduces the need for so many urgent interventions.
In summary, there remains an urgent need to convince many more equine owners of the benefits of good practice: donkeys, mules and horses that are overworked, overburdened, beaten and malnourished simply become too sick to perform their income-generating duties. When unattended, lameness, wounds, harness sores and respiratory problems caused by the dusty environment can lead to painful, premature deaths.
The plight of these beasts of burden can and is being avoided by those owners now providing, with the help of our collaboration with Animal Nepal, decent feed, clean shelter, humane working practices and sufficient rest from the daily toil. And education and veterinary interventions need to be coupled with advocacy work with governments and other non-governmental organisations to address the socio-economic causes of the situation.
Nepal brick kiln facts
- The brick kiln workers hail from some of the poorest communities of Nepal or over the border in India.
- The kiln season stretches from December to June before the monsoon rains stop work.
- Owners each buy 10 to 15 animals from equine markets in India, and recruit around 10 handlers from their local communities — boys whose parents desperately need the low wage incomes their sons earn when away from home.
- The owners and handlers in their charge live in basic shelters alongside their animals, and people and equines work six days a week, making constant trips back and forth from stacks of ‘green’ bricks to the kilns where the unbaked bricks are fired.
- The kiln owner then pays the equine owners according to the number of loads he can truck out to the construction industry.
- At the end of the season, animals in adequate shape are sold on to new owners, often as pack animals in the Himalaya. Time is money but animal abuse is short-sighted as well as unethical as healthy pack carriers deliver healthier returns on investment.
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