equid welfare

Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS): the development and implementation of a new equid welfare assessment and monitoring tool

The assessment of animal welfare poses numerous challenges, yet an emerging approach is the consolidation of existing knowledge into new frameworks which can offer standardised approaches to welfare assessment across a variety of contexts. Multiple tools exist for measuring the welfare of equids, but such tools have typically been developed for specific contexts. There is no ‘one size fits all’ which means that resulting datasets are generally non-comparable, creating a barrier to knowledge-sharing and collaboration between the many organisations working to improve equid welfare around the globe. To address this, we developed the Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, which incorporates pre-existing validated welfare assessment methods alongside new welfare indicators to deliver a larger and more comprehensive series of welfare indicators than currently exists, creating a single resource that can be used to assess equid welfare in any context. We field-trialled three welfare assessment protocols within the EARS tool, and applied these to welfare assessment of equids in a variety of contexts across nineteen countries. The EARS tool proved a useful, versatile and rapid method for collecting welfare assessment data and we collected 7464 welfare assessments in a period of fifteen months. We evaluate the EARS tool and provide ideas for future development.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
2
Start page
297
Publication date
Research output

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

A new framework for assessing equid welfare: a case study of working equids in Nepalese brick kilns

Equids fulfil many different roles within communities. In low- to middle-income countries (LMICs), in addition to providing a source of income, equids also provide essential transport of food, water, and goods to resource-limited and/or isolated communities that might otherwise lack access. The aim of this investigation was to understand the welfare conditions that donkeys, mules, and horses are exposed to whilst working in Nepalese brick kilns. To understand the welfare conditions of equids in Nepalese brick kilns, the Welfare Aggregation and Guidance (WAG) tool in conjunction with the Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool was used to understand the health, behaviour, nutrition, living and working conditions in brick kilns. Further analysis of individual EARS responses focused on key indicator questions relating to demographic information was used to investigate specific areas of welfare concern and attitudes of handlers towards their equids. Trained staff carried out welfare assessments between December 2018 and April 2019. The information gathered using the EARS tool was summarised using the WAG tool to pinpoint areas of welfare concern and suggest possible strategies to mitigate poor welfare conditions and suggest areas to improve the welfare of equids. Overall, the results indicate that to improve the welfare of equids working in Nepalese brick kilns, there should be better provision of clean water, both when working and stabled, equipment should be removed and shade provided during rest periods, with improvements made to housing to allow the equids to rest and recuperate when not working. Further work should also focus on collaborating with owners and equid handlers to improve their attitudes and practices towards their equids. Such improvements can be implemented via training of equid handlers and kiln owners whilst using the EARS and WAG tools to provide a sound basis on which to monitor the effectiveness and impact of education programs on equid welfare.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
6
Start page
1074
Publication date
Research output
Country
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