WASHINGTON, D.C. — Humane Society International, which is active on nearly every continent, is one of the few international organizations that works on such a large scale to protect and improve the lives of humans and animals. Its global headquarters are in Washington, D.C., but the organization supports programs all over the world and maintains offices in India and Costa Rica, among several other countries. The work that HSI does plays a vital role in alleviating global poverty, and the reason is simple: in many parts of the world, animals and people depend on each other for survival.
Access to farm animals, for one, can make or break a family’s chance at survival in impoverished countries. Farm animals provide families with essential nutrients from foods—such as protein and calcium—that reduce the risk of malnourishment. Moreover, farm animals provide families with commodities, such as eggs and cheese. The ability to sell products in a market provides families with a source of income, improving quality of life. In fact, livestock is crucial to the livelihood of more than 900 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Yet, the bulk of HSI’s work involves the protection of confined, neglected or otherwise mistreated farm animals worldwide.
In India, for example, HSI’s Factory Farming Campaign seeks to raise awareness about the conditions under which farm animals are reared. The vast majority of commercial egg and meat products in India come from intensive confinement facilities that notoriously do not provide for animals’ basic needs. 200 million egg-laying hens, for example, are confined in small, wire battery cages and are unable to move, walk or flap their wings at any given moment in India. For a country whose population makes up one quarter of the world’s poor, these are the very animals that feed it.
Aside from the obvious—and heart wrenching—moral implications, studies have shown that intensive confinement of animals poses serious threats to public health and the environment. Crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions that are typical of these facilities are breeding grounds for bacteria and disease, such as avian influenza. HSI’s effort to protect farm animals is vital not only to the animals themselves, but to the very communities that depend on them each day.
For many low-income communities, working animals—horses, burros and donkeys—are the lifeblood. In developing countries’ rural economies, animals play crucial transportation and labor roles in daily farm work. However, due to a lack of access to veterinary care and adequate food, many animals do not survive. Exposure to extremely challenging work environments also results in an animal’s inability to work; many animals suffer from parasites, thirst, injury, sores and sunburn, all related to daily work conditions.
Humane Society International works to save both the economies and the lives of animals in low-income or impoverished rural communities. A life of misery for these laboring animals often translates into a life of misery for their human counterparts: without these animals, many families and communities lose everything, unable to farm their land and make a profit. HSI trains animal health workers and equine owners on how to effectively care for their working animals, and helps communities ensure that animals’ working conditions are not stressful, harmful or cruel.
HSI’s mission is to create a sustainable, humane world for animals and people. By seeking out innovative, compassionate approaches to animal welfare, raising both funds and awareness for these initiatives, promoting education opportunities and animal advocacy, and influencing policy change, HSI is pioneering a high-volume, far-reaching effort to address the inhumane treatment of animals worldwide. By demonstrating the countless ways in which the lives of humans and animals are interconnected, HSI brings us closer to the world it envisions: a world in which respect and caring are the fundamentals of society, and a world in which nobody—human or animal—goes hungry or suffers.
– Elizabeth Nutt