International Working Animal Day

Did you know that almost every vehicle on the streets of London was horse-drawn in 1900?

Working animals played a fundamental role in Britain’s past and continue to do the jobs of trucks, tractors and taxis in developing countries today. Yet almost half of Brits don’t even know what a working animal is, finds new research

  • For centuries, working animals - such as horses and oxen - were the main source of power in the UK, driving agriculture, transport, mining and warfare
  • In 2017, over 200 million working animals, such as horses, donkeys and camels, continue to be relied upon by one billion of the world’s poorest people for their livelihoods
  • Approaching half (40%) of Brits don’t know what a working animal is; 22% of Brits have never heard the term ‘working animal’ before
  • 41% of Brits inaccurately think ‘working animals’ are animals used for entertainment (i.e. in circuses); 32% wrongly assume they are farm animals, such as dairy cows; 11% think they are animals used in media; and 2% think they are pets brought into the office by their owners
  • To mark International Working Animal Day, SPANA is releasing a set of images to highlight how our streets, fields and workplaces were filled with working animals in the past

Working animals are a distant memory in the UK despite their fundamental role in Britain’s past and many of the world’s developing countries today. New research by international animal charity SPANA reveals that nearly 40 per cent of the nation does not even know what a working animal is, with 22 per cent of Brits confessing to have never heard the term ‘working animal’ before.

When asked what a working animal is, 41 per cent of the surveyed Brits inaccurately think they are animals used for entertainment; 32 per cent of Brits assume they are farm animals, such as dairy cows; 11 per cent think they are animals used in media while some (two per cent) even go as far as believing they are pets brought into the office by their owners.

This year marks International Working Animal Day, which aims to raise awareness of the vital role played by working animals.

For centuries, working animals, such as horses and oxen were the main source of power in the UK and the driving force of agriculture, transport, mining and warfare. In 1900, almost every vehicle on the streets of London was horse-drawn and pit ponies were still working underground in British coal mines in 1999.

Yet when we hear the term ‘horsepower’ today, most people think fast cars, forgetting that horses and other working animals were the engines in Britain for thousands of years. They helped build our towns and cities, farmed our land and were our main form of transport, with their contribution to British economic and social development being indisputable.

Whilst cart horses and pit ponies have been replaced by cars, buses, tractors and trains in the UK, working animals continue to play a vital role in developing countries worldwide today. Nearly one billion of the world’s poorest people rely on working animals, such as horses, donkeys and camels for their livelihoods, with an estimated 200 million working animals doing the job of trucks, tractors and taxis.

These working animals often lead short, hard lives in tough working conditions, with inadequate nutrition and no access to veterinary treatment.

SPANA has been the charity for the working animals of the world since 1923, providing free veterinary care to horses, donkeys, mules, elephants and camels in some of the world’s poorest countries. The charity improves the welfare of working animals in three ways: free veterinary treatment, education and community training, and emergency and outreach projects. 

CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS

Paul O’Grady

“It breaks my heart to see how hard horses, donkeys, mules and camels have to work around the world, pulling carts and carrying heavy loads. Despite how important they are, many will lead short, painful lives. Hardly any receive even basic vet care when they’re sick or injured, as it’s often not available and their owners simply can’t afford it. They deserve better.

“That’s why I support SPANA, the charity that gets free lifesaving vet care to working animals. Today I’m asking you to join me in backing SPANA’s International Working Animal Day. We need governments and aid organisations around the world to recognise the massive contribution of working animals and to make sure they get the treatment, care and compassion they deserve.”

Ben Fogle

“For over a billion people worldwide, a working animal is a vital necessity. Working animals represent their transport, their means of collecting firewood and water, and their only way of making a small income to provide for their families. That’s why I support SPANA’s work offering free veterinary treatment to working animals in need, and why on International Working Animal Day I’m asking that these animal heroes get the recognition they deserve.”

Deborah Meaden

“Working animals are no longer a common sight on the streets of Britain as they once were. But, all around the world, these animals still play a vital role and make it possible for the very poorest families to get by and survive. All too often the welfare of working animals is forgotten or ignored. On International Working Animal Day, please join me in supporting SPANA's work of building a more compassionate future for working animals."

www.spana.org