Donkeys support impoverished communities in Mexico
Our member organisation teamed up with the UK's University of Portsmouth to assess the welfare of donkeys, mules and horses in the Mexican states of Puebla, Queretaro and Veracruz.
The subsequent study revealed that in these low- and middle-income rural Mexican communities, working animals labour in often harsh and difficult conditions to provide a stable income for their owners.
More than 100 of the 120 equines assessed showed some type of skin alteration, including open wounds, scarring and swelling. Others had visual signs of lameness and overgrown or split hooves. Over 60% of the equids in the sample were used as saddle or pack animals, while a small proportion were involved in agroforestry.
Overall, equids were found to suffer from welfare problems related to local economic and climatic conditions. Compared to other equids, mules work the longest - up to nine hours a day and sometimes seven days a week. Most of the animals assessed had limited access to shade or water during work periods, whether the conditions were dry or wet.
If we want to improve the welfare of working equids, we must first understand what problems they face, and some of the issues that contribute to poor welfare, before we can take positive action. It is important donkey owners can spot signs of injury, fatigue and other problems to ensure their animals’ welfare needs are met, and so they can continue to work and support livelihoods. Results such as those gathered in this study help us to identify some of the equid-care practices within local communities, so that we can deliver education to change human attitudes and behaviours to improve equid welfare."Dr Faith Burden, Executive Director of Equine Operations at The Donkey Sanctuary
The study found that welfare varied across regions and communities. Worse overall body condition was found in equines working in Puebla, for example, compared to Quertetaro and Veracruz, with little difference between welfare in the latter two states.
Across the study, donkeys tended to be used mainly for domestic tasks helping women and less frequently for income generation. This appears to reduce their value compared to mules and horses, which in turn may lead to lower levels of donkey care.
Reasons for poor welfare may be linked to community animal care, knowledge and practice as well as socio economic constraints and climatic factors. Overall the study has highlighted that Puebla in particular could benefit from targeted welfare improvement interventions.”Dr Faith Burden, Executive Director of Equine Operations at The Donkey Sanctuary
Mexico is currently classified by the World Bank as an upper-middle income country and has approximately 12.9 million working equines. These working animals are essential to agriculture and rural livelihoods and often work in the less prosperous areas of the country.
Non-commercial family farming is very important and in the hills of central Mexico, 90% of households use working animals for agricultural production and more than 50% of rural households have a donkey.