Every year, thousands of people from all over the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka travel to the village of Chinchali to attend the annual fair celebrating the goddess Mayakka Devi. Entire families pile into carts pulled by bullocks, horses, and donkeys for what can be a two-day trip across hundreds of miles. The animals often suffer from dehydration, wounds, and lameness, and some even collapse from the strain.
Animal Rahat, a working-animal relief program supported by PETA, has provided aid and emergency veterinary care to the animals in years past, but this year, it went a step further and chartered buses to transport villagers to the fair in order to give the hardworking animals a long-overdue rest.
Animal Rahat's buses were a huge success—nearly 600 people took advantage of them.
To help animals along the route to the fair, Animal Rahat deployed four relief teams, including a full-time veterinary team at the busiest rest station, a veterinary team at the fair itself, an on-call emergency veterinarian for the entire route, and an education team that discussed proper animal care with animal guardians.
Along the road to Chinchali, Animal Rahat set up aid stations at which animals could eat, rest, drink water, and receive veterinary care.
Animal Rahat posters displayed at the fair warned about the dangers of hitching together animals of different species and sizes, urged people to replace nose ropes with "morkees" (halters), and discouraged people from whipping animals.
Many bullocks showed signs of severe stress, including drooling and staggering.
Molasses was given to bullocks, who are often chronically malnourished, in order to meet their immediate energy requirements.
Animal Rahat staffers urged fairgoers to provide their animals with water and to allow them to rest frequently.
Animal Rahat's veterinarians estimate that they treated hundreds of bullocks and horses for dehydration and injuries—but by providing bus transport, hundreds more animals were spared from having to make the grueling trip at all.
Written by Alisa Mullins