Horses starve to death in Bangladesh during coronavirus pandemic

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Horse, photo: Marko Blažević on Unsplash

More than 20 horses have died of starvation in just one month at Bangladesh’s most popular resort district Cox’s Bazar, the animals’ owners said Sunday.

The horses are used for tourist rides along Cox’s Bazar beach. But since the country is in a lockdown because of the rise of coronavirus infections, no tourists are visiting the beach.

No tourists means no income for the horse’s owners, who said they’ve been struggling to buy food for their animals. Bangladesh has been in lockdown since April 14.

“We are struggling to make ends meet. How can we feed the horses?”, Farida Begum, a spokesperson of the Cox’s Bazar Horse Owners Association, told AFP. During the last lockdown, eight of Begum’s horses starved to death.

Some owners have let their horses go as they can’t use them for rides anymore.

“Horses are seen wandering around in Cox’s Bazar city in various garbage piles, sewerage and roadways in search of food while hungry,” the People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Foundation in Bangladesh said in a press release.

“Most of them are abandoned by poor owners. Many horses are dying after being injured on the road,” PAW said.

They added that the government had taken no steps to reduce the suffering of the horses. For years, PAW has called for an end of horse labor, calling it an “inhumane practice in the name of tradition”.

Even before the pandemic, the animals were forced to work, treated badly, and dumped on the streets when they were too old. According to PAW, more than 200 horses are suffering in Cox’s Bazar.

Horse owner Sarwar Azam told AFP that one of his animals died last week, and the second was also going hungry.

The head of a local horse owners’ organization, Nishan Ahsan –whose four animals died during last year’s lockdown — said his members had received limited aid from the government.

The government administrator for Cox’s Bazar, Sumaiya Akter, said that the government had given the owners 146 sacks of husks and 20 cans of molasses.

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