“Explosion” of plastic pollution poses dire threat to hungry horses
The health and survival of working horses and other animals are under a deadly threat from the global explosion in plastic pollution, an international charity is warning.
As part of International Working Animal Day on June 15, global animal charity Spana (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) is working to raise awareness about the devastating impact of plastic pollution on working animals in countries across the world.
In many low-income countries, there is often limited waste collection, and rubbish is not disposed of properly, with discarded plastic and hazardous materials littering communities. The latest data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that 353 million tonnes of plastic waste were generated globally in 2019, with only nine per cent of plastic waste recycled.
Spana Chief Executive Linda Edwards said there was very little awareness about the global explosion in plastic pollution and the deadly impact of plastic waste on working animals across the world. The risk increases as economic pressures make it harder for owners to afford feed, with hungry animals being forced to desperately graze for food in rubbish dumps and fields full of litter, where they are exposed to toxic plastics, sharp needles and plastic bags and bottles.
Accidentally ingesting plastic puts them at severe risk from internal blockages and life-threatening conditions such as colic, which is one of the most common problems treated by Spana’s veterinary teams. Without urgent treatment, working horses, donkeys and mules can have little chance of surviving.
“The impact on working animals can be life-threatening, and is often fatal without urgent intervention,” Edwards said.
The issue of mismanaged plastic waste – plastic that is either littered or not disposed of properly – is a huge problem, particularly in low-income countries. For instance, Zimbabwe is estimated to produce 35.8kg of mismanaged plastic waste per capita each year, compared with 0.4kg in the UK and 0.36kg in New Zealand. This places working animals in low-income countries at an even greater risk.
Spana is working with owners, highlighting the dangers of plastic waste to their animals, while providing vital care and support. Last year, Spana teams delivered lifesaving veterinary treatment to 306,412 working animals in low-income countries across the world.
Globally, an estimated 200 million working animals support the livelihoods of families in low-income communities, through such activities as transporting water, goods, firewood – and even rubbish and plastic waste itself. However, working animals often face difficult lives and poor welfare, working in extreme conditions, with no available veterinary care when they are sick or injured.
Spana works to transform the welfare of working animals across the world, through global activities that include ensuring the provision of veterinary treatment, training for owners in animal care and the teaching of animal welfare for children. International Working Animal Day has been marked since 2016.
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