Donkey and foal in Mauritania

Chief Executive Jeremy Hulme reflects on progress being made in Mauritania and the changes he’s seen to animal welfare in the country since SPANA first started working here in 2001.

I know some people who have supported SPANA for a good few years might often think to themselves “we keep seeing the same appeals in SPANA News, the same awful suffering, we’re not really getting anywhere, are we?”

Well, I was in Mauritania last week, and I can show you proof that, yes, we do make a difference. We do change things for the better, reduce suffering, and improve welfare. For some time I’ve felt that the body condition of the hundred thousand donkeys that work the streets of the capital, Nouakchott has improved. But just feeling it is not very scientific.

I was there for three days this September, working in the clinic and helping with the daily round of outpatients coming for treatment. So we dug out the records for the same three days in September 2003. Nearly eighty percent of cases were logged as having serious skin wounds from beating (without reins or bridles as that’s how they steered and ‘encouraged’ them).

This September, we were treating twice as many animals, but only thirty percent had skin wounds or lesions, and half of those were harness wounds (nothing to do with beating or cruelty). From eighty percent down to fifteen percent – that has to be progress in anyone’s book. Interestingly, the majority of the other cases came because of foot problems or parasitic diseases – at least their owners are noticing these problems now.

That’s taken a lot of work and effort, but a real improvement. Something that SPANA, and you who fund it and make it possible, can genuinely be proud of.