Harrowing Photos Show What Life Is Like For Millions Of Donkeys

<p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/thebrookecharity/photos/pb.89315678736.-2207520000.1448313198./10153376924078737/?type=3&theater" target="_blank">The Brooke/Facebook</a></p>

It is an astonishing number.

There are 112 million horses, donkeys and mules toiling around the world, lugging heavy loads of water, wood, textiles, food, even people on their backs. Pulling carts of extraordinary weight behind them. Traversing otherwise inaccessible terrain in merciless conditions in underdeveloped regions across the globe.

They are the the invisible workers, says The Brooke, an organization that lobbies on behalf of the welfare of working equines. The Brooke notes there are 12.9 million working equines in Mexico, 15 million in China, 9 million in Ethiopia and more than 5 million in Pakistan.

Of those, 8,500 work in Pakistan's subterranean mines - and their plight is the focus of the group's news campaign. "The coal mines are without a doubt one of the most harrowing environments that we have ever encountered," wrote The Brooke on its Facebook page, when it was alerted to the animals' conditions in 2014.

Since May, a team of veterinarians has been supplying emergency care to the donkeys; the organization says it is the only group in the world trying to help the animals. The donkeys suffer an assortment of issues, including lameness, untreated wounds and respiratory difficulties caused by dust inhalation.

They are also subjected to what is called nose slitting: a "cruel and ineffective" practice that is carried out "due to the mistaken belief that slit nostrils help donkeys breathe better."

There are 500 mines in Pakistan, The Brooke notes on its Facebook page.

According to Petra Ingham, CEO of The Brooke Sanctuary, contrary to what some may believe, the number of working equines in the world is actually on the increase, and the animals need help more than ever. "Now," she says, "is the time to act."