Animals used for Labour

Credits :

Working animals have been integral to India’s history and development for centuries. They have aided in farming, ploughing fields, transporting goods, and providing mobility in remote areas. Bullocks, horses, camels, elephants, and even donkeys have been essential contributors to various sectors of the Indian economy. Their contribution is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of the country.

Usage Areas

  • Agriculture : Working animals continue to be extensively used in agriculture, particularly in rural areas where mechanisation is limited. Bullocks, for instance, are essential for ploughing fields and carting heavy loads. 
  • Transportation : Horses, mules, donkeys and yaks are often used for transporting goods in areas which motorised vehicles cannot access easily, like steep terrains. 
  • Brick Kilns and Construction : Donkeys are commonly employed to carry bricks and construction materials at brick kilns and construction sites. 
  • Tourism : Elephants and camels are prominent in India’s tourism industry, offering rides to tourists in various parts of the country. 
  • Entertainment : Although circuses are banned, there are smaller troupes across India that still use a variety of animals to perform tricks. Animals are also used extensively in film making. 


  • Health and Welfare : Most working animals in India face poor living conditions, get inadequate nutrition, and have limited access to veterinary care. 
  • Overwork and Abuse : Some working animals endure long hours of labour without proper rest, leading to exhaustion and abuse. Physical and emotional abuse are prevalent, particularly among animals used for entertainment purposes. 
  • Lack of Legislation : While India does have legislation such as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, awareness is low and enforcement is non-existent. There is a need for stricter regulations specifically addressing the welfare of working animals. 
  • Lack of Awareness : Many owners may not be aware of the proper care and handling of working animals, leading to unintentional mistreatment. 
  • Changing Economic Landscape : As India’s economy evolves and modernises, the role of working animals is diminishing in some sectors, leading to abandonment and neglect. 


  • Education and Awareness : Raising awareness among animal owners and the general public about proper animal care is crucial. Workshops and training programmes can help promote humane treatment. 
  • Enforcement of Existing Laws : Stricter enforcement of existing animal welfare laws, with a specific focus on working animals, can help curb abuse and neglect. 
  • Establishment of veterinary standards and access to veterinary care : Access to affordable veterinary care in rural areas can improve the health and welfare of working animals. 
  • Promoting Alternative Livelihoods : Encouraging alternative livelihoods for those heavily dependent on working animals can help reduce the burden on these animals as the economy evolves. 
  • Research and Innovation : Supporting research into improved harnessing techniques, equipment, and alternative methods to minimize the strain on working animals is essential. 

Our Intervention

In Partnership with People For Animals Uttarakhand

A Background

Lakhs of pilgrims visit religious shrines in various parts of India; about 50,000 equines are used each season. A large number of animals die of malnutrition, colic and accidents on these treacherous tracks. 

Cruelty towards animals: Due to the loss of business during the pandemic, the owners tend to overwork their equines upon the resumption of tourism in the region. These working equines are still subjected to immense cruelty and injected with narcotics. The mules are usually dehydrated and used for two trips per day which is unlawful. Animals also slip on their way down due to rain and terrain causing wounds and injuries. 

Pollution: The carcasses of these animals are dumped in water bodies. No proper burial methods are followed, which causes great environmental damage and is a potential breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.  Insurance: The insurance cost of one equine is around INR 60,000 to INR 70,000; this means that the owners profit from the death of the animal, which makes them care less about the living conditions of the equines.  Health and Sanitation: Due to the absence of quarantine centers, medical labs, infirmaries and veterinary help, the spread of Glanders is common in these locations. This is a zoonotic disease which can affect humans as well. It is a fatal disease and death is imminent once the equines test positive for Glanders. IAF, via a campaign on GIVE platform, helped raise funds for the project for working animals to take off, in partnership with PFA Uttarakhand, with the latter serving as an implementation partner. Besides this, a recent order by the High Court of India, is all set to change the landscape for equine rights and welfare.    Through this partnership, the following measures will be implemented: 
  1. Set-up of a state-of-the-art infirmary for rehabilitation of injured and sick equines. 
  2. RTIs will be filed with SPCB, DM, local authorities concerned, among others (and follow-ups conducted). 
  3. District Magistrates of relevant districts will be given regular reports of cruelty and violation of law. 
  4. Representations will be given to the State Government every month regarding current status, and improvements to be made in line with the SOP published by the AWBI.
  5. The State Pollution Control Board and the District Administration will be encouraged to ensure compliance with the order of the NGT. 
  6. Field visits will be paid to areas such as Kedarnath, Gomukh, Vaishno Devi, Char Dham et cetera. 
  7. Media outreach will also be feciliated, along with the rescue and rehabilitation of equines. 
  8. During the course of these activities, injured and sick animals will be treated and rehabilitated. 

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