Two-thirds of Brits have no idea animals such as donkeys, horses and camels work to produce the food and drinks they consume daily.
A study of 2,000 adults found only 27% believe working animals overseas have any impact on everyday life in the UK – despite these animals helping to transport and produce common goods such as tea, coffee, fruit, sugar and chocolate.
Globally, more than 200 million working animals support people in the world’s poorest communities, and help provide a livelihood by ploughing fields and transporting food, water, goods, and firewood.
From Costa Rica to Ethiopia, working animals also often have an important role transporting agricultural produce 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 those polled (48%) know what working animals do.
And just 47% are aware these animals are used globally to transport goods and people.
7% think “working animal” refers to a pet brought into an office by their owner, and one in ten mistakenly believes the term describes animals in zoos.
But although many are unclear about the exact role of a working animal, 59% imagine life is generally challenging and unpleasant for them in low-income countries, and seven in ten feel more should be done to help them.
Global animal welfare charity SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) carried out the research to mark International Working Animal Day (June 15), and is calling for more people to support their work helping working animals.
Linda Edwards, chief executive of the charity, said: “In the UK, the concept of working animals isn’t as familiar as in other parts of the world.
“Working animals are no longer a common sight on our streets and in our fields.
“But, in many of the world’s poorest communities, working horses, donkeys, camels and elephants continue to be an essential part of everyday life.
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“Through their work, they make it possible for many families in poverty-stricken communities to earn a small income and survive.
“However, despite their vital importance, the welfare of working animals is often very poor, and they can work in extreme conditions, without access to the food, water and care they need.”
The study also found more than eight in ten think working animals deserve to live a life free from pain and suffering.
Just over seven in ten believe they should have regular breaks throughout the day, sufficient feed and fresh water, and access to veterinary care.
And nearly two-thirds (63%) think they shouldn't have to work in dangerous environments, while 62% feel animals should be allowed to retire when they reach a certain age.
It also emerged over half (52%) have encountered a working animal at some point when travelling abroad.
Of these, more than one in three (36%) believe the animal they encountered was faced with what they would consider a “poor” working environment.
However, just 13% would speak to an animal’s owner if they saw it in pain or difficulty.
These adults would be more likely to contact an animal charity (19%), or speak to their travel operator, hotel, or tour guide (16%).
Working animals support the livelihoods of more than one billion people worldwide, and 82% of those polled agree working animals are important to their owners.
But only a quarter (26%) spend any time considering the working animals that are used to produce some of the food, drinks, and other items routinely bought in the UK.
Linda Edwards added: “Very few people in the UK realise that working animals have a huge impact well beyond the countries where they work.
“Working animals are regularly used to transport and produce the items we regularly take for granted in our own homes – such as tea and coffee.
“But all too often these animals are taken for granted and their needs are overlooked.
“SPANA teams across the world are striving to improve the lives of working animals, and are focused on alleviating their pain and suffering.
“We are committed to delivering lasting improvements in animal welfare, to bring about a better future for working animals.
“We are making a significant difference – but there are still so many animals in need of urgent help.”
Find out how you can show your support for working animals across the world by visiting here.
EVERYDAY PRODUCTS WORKING ANIMALS GLOBALLY HELP PRODUCE:
- Ginger and other spices
- Wine and other types of alcohol
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