animal welfare

Donkey skin trade: is it sustainable to slaughter donkeys for their skin?

Donkeys (Equus asinus) face a global crisis. The health, welfare, and even survival of donkeys are being compromised as the demand for their skins increases. It is driven by the production of ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy believed by some to have medicinal properties. It is estimated that the ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins per year. Since there is no productive chain for donkey skin production outside of China, the activity is extractive and has resulted in the decimation of donkeys. Gestation is 12 months in donkeys, increasing the risk of extinction if such practices are not controlled. In this scenario, the donkeys are collected (purchased for low prices, stolen, and collected from the side of the roads) and are then often transported for long distances, usually without water, food, or rest. The trade, in Brazil, poses significant biosecurity risks, particularly because examinations are rarely conducted and therefore infectious diseases, such as glanders and infectious anemia, remain undetected. Furthermore, in chronic stress situations, the immune system is suppressed, increasing the biosecurity risk, especially because donkeys are a silent carrier of diseases. Rarely there is traceability with animals from different origins being put together in “fake farms”, before being delivered to slaughterhouses. The opportunistic strategy of collecting animals, or buying for low prices, keeping them without access to food and veterinary assistance, is what makes this trade profitable. Our experience in donkey welfare and the global skin trade suggest that it will be enormously challenging and cost-prohibitive to run a trade at the standards required to be considered humane, sustainable, and safe. Although donkeys are being blamed for the involvement in road accidents, it is not an ethical solution to maintain this trade as an alternative. Moreover, the ecological role of donkeys in native ecosystems has not been elucidated, and some studies indicate they could even have a positive effect. Regardless of the future the donkeys will have; we must guarantee a life with the least dignity to the animals under our responsibility.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

'All my animals are equal, but none can survive without the horse’. The contribution of working equids to the livelihoods of women across six communities in the Chimaltenango Region of Guatemala

It is widely assumed that working equid husbandry is carried out by men, and women are often not recognised as facilitating equid welfare. The aim of this study is to investigate how working equids contribute to women’s livelihoods in six of the World Horse Welfare programme target communities in Guatemala and determine what roles women have in their care. Thirty-four face-to-face interviews were carried out and data were analysed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This study found that working equids support women by reducing domestic drudgery, generating income, feeding livestock and saving time. Thirty-two women played a major role in the care of one or more equids, and overall, women did not feel that they knew enough about equid husbandry. Thirty-one women said they would attend training opportunities if the advertising was clear and they felt that women were able to join. This study recognises the contribution of working equids to women’s livelihoods, describes the roles women play in equid husbandry and addresses the discrepancies between women’s roles and their capacity to undertake these tasks. This emphasises the need for extension services to include and cater for women, improving equid welfare and their ability to continue supporting women’s livelihoods.

Journal
Volume
11
Issue
6
Start page
1509
Publication date
Research output
Country

The Welfare Aggregation and Guidance (WAG) tool: A new method to summarize global welfare assessment data for equids

Animal welfare can be represented by an array of indicators. There is, however, increasing demand for concise welfare assessments that can be easily communicated and compared. Previous methods to aggregate welfare assessments have focused on livestock systems and produced a single welfare score, which may not represent all aspects of welfare. We propose an aggregation method for the recently developed Equid Assessment Research and Scoping (EARS) welfare assessment tool that results in grades for five welfare categories: housing conditions, working conditions, health, nutrition, and behavior. We overcome the problems associated with existing approaches by using a single aggregation method (decision trees) that incorporates the most important welfare indicators in a single step. The process aims to identify equids with the poorest welfare and aid decision-making when allocating resources. We demonstrate its application using a case study of over 6000 equids across Europe and Asia, where equids in India and Pakistan had the poorest welfare status in terms of health (respiratory disease and open wounds) and behavior (signs of fear and distress, and limb tethering practices). We recommend identification of the specific causes of these issues, using either existing detailed welfare data or through issue-specific assessments by an appropriate professional, to guide the development of appropriate interventions and, ultimately, improve equid welfare.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
4
Start page
546
End page
546
Publication date
Research output

Management practices and milk production in dairy donkey farms distributed over the Italian territory

Limited information is available about the actual management characteristics of dairy donkeys in Southern Europe. The aim of the present study is to describe animal management of dairy donkey farms in Italy. Twelve farmers were asked to answer a questionnaire on the management of their animals and their farms distributed over the Italian territory. Six farms grouped their animals in paddocks according to the production characteristics (e.g. lactating, dry, stallions); three farms housed the stallions in single boxes. Most of the visited farms were family run and the number of animals cared for by a single person varied from five to 103 animals. All the farms but one performed mechanical milking with a modified goat milkmaid.Vaccinations were regularly performed only on two farms. All the foals received colostrum and suckled from their own mothers. Foals were nursed by their mother until 6-12 months old. During the separation period before milking, foals were usually (83%) housed in paddocks near their mothers with the possibility of visual and/or tactile contact, however such separations could be for up to 12 hours (17%). Even though the assessed sample was small, considerable differences were seen between farms, likely due to lack of uniform information available for the farmers. The adoption of scientific based procedures is suggested in order to improve both animal welfare and milk quality.

Volume
40
Issue
2
Start page
1
End page
4
Publication date
Country

Ensuring the welfare of the farmed donkey for the production of milk: an analysis of the legislation

Donkey’s milk is a valuable product for paediatric patients with allergy to cow milk proteins. As the donkey milk qualifies as a product intended primarily for consumers with special needs, it should be of good quality and therefore the donkeys must enjoy good health and welfare.

To better understand how dairy donkeys’ welfare is assured around Europe, an analysis of EU, Italian and Regional Legislation about welfare of donkeys used to produce milk was conducted. According to 98/58/EC Directive, donkeys kept for milk/meat production should be considered as farm animals. This Directive, without being species-specific, lays down minimum standards for the protection of animals bred or kept for farming purposes.

European Regulation 37/2010 and Italian Dlgs 193/2006 report the rules on the use of veterinary drugs. A veterinarian must prescribe pharmacologically active substances and commend an appropriate withdrawal period to ensure that food derived from treated animals does not contain residues harmful to consumers. No specific information regarding drugs for dairy donkeys is reported and it is unclear what happens in reality when a lactating jenny needs treatment.

Three Italian Regions (Piemonte, Emilia Romagna and Veneto) have specific regulations about donkey milk production. The “D.D. 461 17/06/2013”, “Circolare 17 05/10/2005” and “ALLEGATO A Dgr 513 03/04/2012” report requirements for milk production to guarantee adequate food safety and generically suggest that donkeys should be kept in good welfare conditions.

In addition, Italian guidelines “Codice per la Tutela e la Gestione degli Equidi” provides essential criteria for proper management of equines, according to good practices and ethical behaviour; they give suggestions about nutrition and water provision, stable management, training, identification documents, transport, euthanasia, education of farmers.

Our work highlights that protecting welfare of donkeys used to produce milk may be affected by a lack of specific legislation. As a first step, the development of specific guidelines would help to improve their welfare.

Volume
23
End page
64
Publication date
Country

Effects of management practices on the welfare of dairy donkeys and risk factors associated with signs of hoof neglect

This Research Paper aimed to investigate donkey welfare in dairy husbandry systems and to identify the potential factors affecting it at animal level. In 2015, twelve dairy donkey farms (19–170 donkeys per farm, mean = 55 ± 48), distributed throughout Italy, were visited. On each farm, the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) welfare assessment protocol for donkeys was used by two trained assessors to evaluate the welfare of animals for a total of 257 donkeys assessed. The protocol includes animal-based indicators that were entered in a digitalised system. Prevalence of different scores at individual, farm and category level were calculated. Farmers were asked to fill out a questionnaire including information regarding the management of donkeys and their final destination. Answers to the questionnaire were then considered as effects in the risk factor analysis whereas the scores of the animal-based indicators were considered as response variables. Most of the donkeys (80·2%) enjoyed a good nutritional status (BCS = 3). 18·7% of donkeys showed signs of hoof neglect such as overgrowth and/or incorrect trimming (Min = 0% Max = 54·5%). Belonging to a given farm or production group influenced many of the welfare indicators. The absence of pasture affected the likelihood of having skin lesions, alopecia, low BCS scores and a less positive emotional state. Lack of routine veterinary visits (P < 0·001) and having neglected hooves (P < 0·001) affected the likelihood of being thin (BCS < 3). Belonging to specific production groups, lack of access to pasture and showing an avoidance reaction to an approaching human (AD) resulted in risk factors associated with a higher prevalence of signs of hoof neglect. Our results support the idea that lack of knowledge of proper donkey care among owners was behind many welfare issues found.

Published online ahead of print.

Publication date
Country

Documenting the welfare and role of working equids in rural communities of Portugal and Spain

Recently, the need for a more holistic approach to welfare assessment has been highlighted. This is particularly pertinent in the case of working equids who provide vital support for human livelihoods, often in low- to middle-income countries, yet suffer from globally low standards of welfare. This study aimed to provide insight into the welfare status and traditional use of working equids in rural Western European communities using the new EARS welfare tool, designed to provide a broad view of the welfare of working equids and the context in which they are found. Other questions on the topics of equid management practices, social transmission of expertise, environmental stressors, and traditions, alongside physical and behavioural welfare assessments were also included to explore the impact of these wide-ranging factors on an understudied population of working equids. The protocol was trialled on 60 working equid owners from communities in Portugal and Spain where, despite the decline in traditional agricultural practices and livestock keeping, donkeys and mules remain working animals. Many owners stated that the help donkeys provided was invaluable, and donkeys were considered to be important for both farming and daily life. However, participants also recognised that the traditional agricultural way of life was dying out, providing insights into the traditional practices, community structure, and beliefs of equid owners. Questions investigating the social networks and social transfer of information within the villages were effective in finding local sources of equid knowledge. Overall, welfare was deemed fair, and the protocol enabled the identification of the most prevalent welfare problems within the communities studied, in this case obesity and the use of harmful practices. The findings suggest that the new protocol was feasible and detail how contextual factors may influence equid welfare. Increasing understanding of the cultural context, social structure, and attitudes within a community, alongside more traditional investigations of working practices and animal management, may, in the future, help to make equid welfare initiatives more effective.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
5
Start page
790
Publication date
Research output
Country

Comparison of working equid welfare across three regions of Mexico

Background

Factors affecting working equid welfare are wide-ranging and reflect cultural, economic and climatic conditions, the type of work equids are used for, and individual differences in the practices of their handlers. In Mexico working equids are widely used for facilitating agricultural activities, however, welfare issues are common.

Objectives

To assess working equids across three communities in Mexico, identify predominant welfare problems and document how these problems vary across locations and associated working roles and species type.

Study design

Cross-sectional survey.

Methods

The study combined the administration of a wide-ranging questionnaire to equid handlers/owners and a welfare assessment of their animal. 120 equid owners were asked about their equid management practices, the working conditions and health status of their animal. The welfare of their equids (56 donkeys, 7 mules, 57 horses) was assessed by evaluating body condition, signs of illness or injury, and behavioural indicators.

Results

Welfare varied by species, working role, sex and location. The poorest welfare was seen in one of the two arid regions (the third location having a tropical climate). Donkeys had poorer welfare than horses, and equids used for packing had poorer welfare than those used for riding and agroforestry. Overall poor body condition and wounds were the most common problems seen.

Main limitations

Work type, species type and location strongly co-varied, thus the impact of each factor could not be assessed in isolation. The sample size was relatively small.

Conclusions

Results showed significant regional variations in welfare, suggesting that environmental and/or cultural variations are producing a major effect on welfare.

Published online ahead of print.

Publication date
Country

The use of contextualised problem-based learning in enhancing student’s understanding of issues around a so-called ‘messy problem’; the development and imposition of laws relative to animal welfare

Roger Cutting
Presentation date

This paper presents an evaluation of the use of contextualised problem-based learning (PBL) in the context of the law and animal welfare. Generally, law is taught through the transmission of information, however in PBL, discussions and analyses are integral rather than conclusory to learning. As a curriculum approach, it is becoming increasingly common to use problem scenarios in facilitating awareness of legal issues and to engage interest by highlighting the real-world ramifications. Furthermore, such an approach allows students to become active in their own learning and promotes the development of decision-making abilities through the identification and analysis of real problems. This may be particularly apposite in developing skills for addressing certain kinds of seemingly intractable policy problems. Such an approach was adopted as part of a teaching session during a ‘One World’ festival event at a UK university. The application of legal precedence to authentic problems such as animal welfare takes place across subject-matter domains and therefore allowed interdisciplinary and translational methodologies to be explored with groups of interdisciplinary graduate students.

A designed characteristic was the facilitation of evaluation and such prescience allowed multiple opportunities for observation, focus group discussion and the deployment of questionnaires. The results were generally positive in relation to student learning with a significant appreciation of the difficulties of making decisions in complex ethical contexts. However, while students reported a meaningful learning experience, the specific, identified, outcomes varied significantly. This may reflect the difficulties around focussed learning outcomes relative to such messy-problems, suggesting that the complexity of the issues promotes an allied complexity of emergent learning. It is suggested that within this deeper, complex appreciation of problems, such as those associated with animal welfare and legislation, is where PBL both fosters and facilitates the development of authoritative and ethical decision-making skills in young people.

The contribution of blended learning in the promotion of farm animal welfare

Roger Cutting
Presentation date

In Western industrialised nations, within the domain of education and training, digital is now the default, where emerging technologies have increased connectedness to such a degree that they have driven a significant transformation in pedagogical methodologies. This is primarily due to the ease of access to smartphones and other connected personal devices. As a result, the constraints of location and time are no longer great barriers to learning, with learning possible to access in any mode and almost in any place and at any time. For geographically large countries such as China, these technologies can link the national to the international, connect city to city and the urban to the rural.

This paper will review existing blended learning approaches and how technology has influenced pedagogical approaches to teaching and training around animal welfare. A key component in the design of online learning resources is that it facilitates active design, production and of content. This can be shared in numerous formats, including text, images, sound, video, and online seminars and discussions, all of which are easily disseminated to potentially huge audiences. Such a ‘connected pedagogy’ also relies on establishing an environment that is characterised by meaningful engagement, problem-based learning, and peer-evaluation. The paper will review the approaches to be adopted by the Donkey Sanctuary on its learning platform and will demonstrate the design and implementation of and learning and training resources with specific reference to animal welfare and biosecurity.

The presentation concludes by placing animal welfare within the context of formal, moral education in China and how the philosophical and historical influences of Confucianism and Socialism have presented, as a key component, the maintenance of harmony between living and natural environments. This has made China an active promoter of sustainable development, an aspiration to which blended learning has much to contribute.

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