Woman and a working donkey

We can only transform the lives of animals and people with systemic change

When Brooke came into being our predecessors were rightly focused on addressing the immediate suffering of horses abandoned after the First World War.

The phrase “systemic change” was almost certainly not part of their lexicon. But to make a significant and lasting change today, it has to form not just part of our lexicon but an integral part of our strategic approach.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brutally exposed how the health and welfare of animals and people are intrinsically linked. Emerging diseases, extreme poverty and the climate crisis are consequences of the broken global systems we live with. Only systemic change will tackle the root causes of these global challenges.

Our experience shows that the health and welfare of working animals are critically linked to the health, welfare and development of the communities that depend on them. Working animals play a critical role in supporting communities’ livelihoods in lower income countries. Farmers, families and small businesses rely on donkeys and horses for their income and everyday tasks. The welfare of these animals is a human and environmental issue.

In Brooke’s new global strategy our mission has evolved to move beyond just eradicating equines’ suffering, to addressing the systemic problems that affect these animals, their communities and our shared environment. While many animal welfare organisations focus solely on providing direct animal care, as important as that is, we want also to bring collaborative and sustainable solutions to these complex, interconnected issues. We need to drive both immediate and lasting change. The future of working equids animal welfare is contingent on these three broad areas.

1. Fix a broken system

Working animals play a critical part in the sustainable development of lower income countries, yet many of those countries have strained animal health services: too few vets, insufficient training opportunities, and inadequate access to essential medicines.

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Our evolved vision for animal welfare addresses these critical gaps in global animal health systems. Mentoring, training, and supporting best practice is critical for building an animal health workforce that meets working animals’ needs. Global and local advocacy is crucial for growing and equipping this workforce with the rights tools, medicines and vaccines.

2. Give local owners the tools to change

We focus on the attitudes, behaviours and practices of animal-owning communities and health services.

By taking a participatory and community-led approach, we ensure equine owners and wider communities are central to better equine welfare. Owners need to be engaged and supported, so they can provide compassionate handling and hoof care to address just two endemic welfare problems. Ensuring that their healthy animals can help drive social and economic progress.

3. Global advocacy for local issues

Scaling up what we know works at the local level amplifies change. The interconnected Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to solve the biggest challenges of our time, but only if they truly leave no one behind. This includes working animals.

We work with governments, international NGOs, local partners and multilateral institutions to develop animal welfare policies and integrate them into wider development agendas. From our experience campaigning against the donkey skin trade to advocating for animal health at the G20, we know that advocacy at all levels is key to real transformation.

For more about Brookes’ new approach, read our new strategy for 2025, A Life Worth Living