We are not alone!
For some reason, it is easy for us to overlook what we hold in common. We share a common humanity and we share many goals in common. We just don’t always see it! We are members of a vast network or community… but we often fail to see that too. We also all recognise the challenges posed when we fail to work together, to communicate and to find solutions to the problems we face. And yet we still often choose to work in isolation without building bridges, that-is-to-say relationships, with those who could partner us in our work.
For many of us, animal welfare work is an increasingly complex business that extends far beyond veterinary interventions and treatments. As a vet, I came to realise years ago that my interventions were meaningless unless I tried to engage and deal with the underlying causes of the problems I was treating.
But how does one do this? The answer, I believe, lies in networking and collaborative partnerships.
A global network
The Donkey Sanctuary aspires to reach as many of the World’s 50 million or so donkeys and mules as possible. For me this is about ensuring that the mule (or donkey) is cared for by someone who truly sees their needs and is motivated to fulfil them. That owner then needs to be in a network that actively supports the owner in meeting these needs. Donkeys, mules and their owners are, however, amongst the most marginalised beings on the planet and it is all-too-easy for these other networks to fail to see these individuals and understand their needs. In failing to see, in failing to understand, in failing to care, they fail to recognise that it is they who have the power to ensure owners are supported and their animal’s needs met.
For me networking is about ensuring that we all see the individual animal and care enough to help. It is also about listening – listening to the animal, to the owners and to the communities we are seeking to help. This is why I am so passionate about collaborative partnerships and put so much effort into spreading the word – so that we can share the load.
The nature of the worldwide tourism industry is such that the mules who work in mountain tourism are part of a global network. One of my challenges has been to make that network more tangible so that mules are seen and heard. In building connections, I have had to develop a presence within a number of networks and communities, thereby establishing bridges across a number of disciplines that previously were not connected. The need to establish these connections across ‘communities of practice’ is something I was able to present, discuss and explore further at last week’s International Colloquium on Working Equids.
7th International Colloquium on Working Equids
This Colloquium takes place every four years and brings together the staff of the key welfare charities working on working equids, as well as many others who share this interest, for three days of intense learning and knowledge sharing. This year the 7th International Colloquium on Working Equids was held at the Royal Holloway, London, where it was hosted and organised by World Horse Welfare.
I was fortunate enough to receive a Centenary Scholarship from the Institute of Geography at the University of Edinburgh where I am based. This allowed me to attend the Colloquium and present two posters:
- Knowing the Expedition Pack Mule: Animal Welfare and the Growth of the Moroccan Mountain Tourism Industry
- The Impact of a Holistic Approach to Animal Welfare within Moroccan Mountain Tourism
These posters provide a critical overview of some of the work on the welfare of pack mules in the Moroccan mountain tourism industry that we have undertaken over the last five years.
This work has been undertaken in close collaboration with Professor Hassan Alyakine of the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, in Rabat, Morocco. Professor Alyakine is now the new Director of SPANA Maroc and has been a valued partner and collaborator in this project.
Hassan and I were invited to present one of our two posters to HRH the Princess Royal when she visited in her capacity as President of World Horse Welfare. We were able to discuss the role played by working equines within tourism and the need for all parties to work together to raise welfare standards and ensure that animals are not exploited but respected and afforded the best possible care.
Collaborative partnerships and networking
We are now actively engaged in building collaborative partnerships across the mountain tourism industry to ensure that knowledge and understanding are shared and that we work together to improve husbandry practices and welfare standards.