Working donkeys, horses and camels overseas play an important role in much of the produce that ends up on supermarket shelves in the UK
Two-thirds of Britons have no idea that animals like donkeys, horses and camels work to produce the food and drink they consume every day.
A study of 2,000 adults found that just 27% believe working animals abroad have any impact on daily life in Britain – despite these animals helping with transport and the production of everyday goods such as tea, coffee, fruit, sugar and chocolate.
Globally, more than 200 million livestock support people in the world’s poorest communities and help earn their livelihoods by plowing fields and transporting food, water, goods and firewood.
From Costa Rica to Ethiopia, working animals also often play an important role in transporting agricultural products from small farms, fields and plantations.
Many of these products eventually end up on our shelves in supermarkets and shops.
However, despite their vital role, less than half of respondents (48%) know what working animals do.
And only 47% know that these animals are used to transport goods and people around the world.
7% think ‘work animal’ refers to a pet being brought into an office by its owner and one in ten mistakenly believe the term describes animals in zoos.
But while many are unclear about the exact role of a workhorse, 59% imagine life in low-income countries is generally challenging and uncomfortable for them, and seven in 10 think more should be done to help them to help.
Global animal welfare organization SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) conducted the research to mark International Working Animal Day (June 15) and is calling for more people to support their work in favor of working animals.
Linda Edwards, chief executive of the charity, said: “The concept of working animals is not as well known in the UK as it is in other parts of the world.
“Working animals are no longer a common sight on our roads and fields.
“But in many of the world’s poorest communities, draft horses, donkeys, camels and elephants remain an integral part of everyday life.
“Through their work, they enable many families in poor communities to earn a small income and survive.
“Despite their vital importance, however, working animals are often very poorly welfareed, and they can work in extreme conditions without access to the food, water and care they need.”
The study also found that more than eight out of ten farm animals deserve a life free of pain and suffering.
Just over seven in ten believe they should be given regular breaks throughout the day, adequate food and fresh water, and access to veterinary care.
And nearly two-thirds (63%) don’t think they need to work in hazardous environments, while 62% think animals should be allowed to retire when they reach a certain age.
It also found that more than half (52%) have encountered a workhorse when traveling abroad.
Of these, more than a third (36%) believe the animal they encountered was exposed to what they considered a ‘bad’ work environment.