Every year in October, the Indian town of Dewa Sharif in eastern Uttar Pradesh comes alive with the sights and sounds of one of the country's largest equine fairs.
Donkey Sanctuary India has been attending the fair since 2011. In 2017, representatives from The Donkey Sanctuary UK and Ireland, including CEO Mike Baker, were present too.
As well as working directly to address immediate health needs of ill and injured equines, our 20-strong multinational team of vets, paravets and community education officers conducted field research and welfare assessments, held educational sessions with owners and networked with fair organisers and local government officials to improve conditions for animals.
The Barabanki Fair, or the Dewa Mela as it’s also known, has been taking place annually for over a century to commemorate the Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah.
Hundreds of traders and thousands of donkeys, mules and horses descend upon the fair grounds for a week of hectic trading, and an entire local economy springs up around them.
Many of the animals had travelled hundreds of kilometres in groups of 25-30 in trucks legally required to hold no more than six
Many of the animals had travelled hundreds of kilometres in groups of 25-30 in trucks legally required to hold no more than six, without access to food or water during the journey. Others had walked the distance over several days.
Community education sessions are a vital part of The Donkey Sanctuary’s approach internationally.
At the Barabanki Fair, the team spreads good welfare messages to a large number of people even in areas where they don’t have a direct presence.
The team’s hard work at Barabanki over the last five years has started yielding positive results, with larger numbers of owners from India and Nepal approaching them this year to request education sessions.
We were also told by fair organisers that there was a lot of positive discussion about our stall among owners.