Shocked to see the conditions of thousands of donkeys, mules and horses working at the brick factories in the outskirts of Kathmandu valley, Animal Nepal launched the program in 2009, soon after its own inception. Since then, the program has expanded to four districts - Lalitpur, Dhading, Gorkha and Banke.
Our Equine Outreach Team, consisting of vets, vet technicians and community educators visit our working areas throughout the year to provide needs-based medical treatment to the animals, conduct welfare assessments, deliver training and awareness sessions and other area specific activities based on the needs of the program beneficiaries.
Majority of the working equines in Nepal start their journey from one of the big equine markets in India, such as Barabanki. Once bought, the animals are brought to Nepalgunj in Banke district which is a city on Nepal's southern border with India. This is also the district where most of Nepal's equine owning community come from. Once in Nepalgunj, the animals are either put to work in Nepalgunj and neighboring districts, pulling tangas (carts), or transported in the back of the truck to their place of work. This can be either to the brick factories in Lalitpur and Dhading or to Gorkha and other mountainous regions, where they are used to carry loads along trails which are often inaccessible by vehicles.
Brick production is seasonal work, taking place outside of the rainy season, between December - June. During these months, the equine owners/ handlers and their family live and work at the brick factories along with their animals. The Equine Outreach Team is present throughout the brick season and engages in three main activities - health camps for the animals, awareness raising and welfare assessments.
Prior to Animal Nepal's intervention, these animals were often abused with inadequate food, shelter and healthcare. They would be overburdened and overworked. It was and still is (in some places) common practice to beat the animals into submission and use traditional healing methods (which is often harmful). These cruel practices can still be found in some places, however the work being done by Animal Nepal's Equine Outreach Team in the past decade has been vital in improving the welfare of thousands of working equines in Nepal.
Brick production is seasonal work which takes place between December -June and stops during the monsoon season. During the brick season, the Equine Outreach Team can mostly be found at the brick kilns in Dhading and Lalitpur. The animals are brought over from Nepalgunj in Banke district (Nepal's main equine market) to Dhading and Lalitpur just for the brick season.
AN has been working in over 15 brick factories in Lalitpur (seasonal industry running for 6 months every year), where it organizes regular health camps and educates the equine owners, handlers and factory owners on equine welfare. The condition of the 500 or so working equines in the 15 brick factories in Lalitpur has improved considerably with 55% decrease in wounds over a 5 year working period (Annual Report 2015-2016). Animal Nepal was the first animal welfare organization to work in the brick kilns of Nepal and our work continues to expand. In 2012, the outreach programme was extended to Nepalgunj- Nepal’s main equine bazaar, to address the root causes of the abuse and make a lasting change in the lives of Nepal’s working equines and their owners. In 2016, AN expanded its Outreach programme to Dhading, Kavre and Gorkha districts of Nepal. In the same year AN decided to focus more on advocacy and since has worked closely with the Ministry of Livestock Development.
In addition to the equine welfare education workshops, AN also provides skill based training for the equine owners and their families to enhance their economic situation. This undertaking was carried out while extending AN’s outreach programme to Nepalgunj- Nepal’s main equine bazaar (as well as home for most equine owners coming to Lalitpur). Animal Nepal was the first animal welfare organization to work in the brick-kilns of Nepal and our work continues to expand.
As policy makers, the government plays a crucial role in ensuring the welfare of working animals. As part of this program, Animal Nepal advocates for the cause of working animals with specific stakeholders. In 2016, Animal Nepal was part of the committee that was formed to draft a legislation for the welfare of equines and other pack animals. In 2017, Animal Nepal successfully lobbied the government of Nepal to pass the landmark Animal Welfare Directive - the first of its kind in the world specifically drafted for the welfare of traction and pack animals. Animal Nepal hopes to set an example by supporting the government in the implementation of this Directive as law and to this end, Animal Nepal have signed an MoU with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock stating that Animal Nepal will be a leading partner in the implementation process.