working equids

Donkeys in transition: changing use in a changing world

Donkeys have a long history in the development of human societies. Typically referred to as a beast of burden, traditional uses for donkeys have included the transportation of goods and people, use in agricultural and forestry activities, to access water, and provide citizens in low- and middle-income countries a means of making an income for communities. However, the rise of mechanization, the development of modern farming techniques, and the increasing availability of motorized vehicles have led to donkeys and mules becoming redundant from traditional roles in many parts of the world. We provide examples of where donkeys have successfully transitioned from traditional roles to new, non-traditional roles in Europe and North America, and demonstrate that, although the roles and use of donkeys and mules are changing in a rapidly developing world, we can learn lessons from the past and apply them to current challenges. As the need for working equids declines in transport and agriculture, they still hold great value for recreational, therapeutic, and environmentally friendly methods of animal traction. 

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

‘Don’t put the cart before the mule!’ Challenging assumptions regarding health-related treatment practices of working equid owners in Northern India

This paper challenges assumptions that the health management of working equids among some of India’s poorest communities is mainly dependent upon income, economic influence, or access to veterinary services. Using a mixed-methods approach, hierarchies of treatment practices are revealed through an examination of the ‘lived experience’ of equid owners in brick kilns and construction sites in northern India. Semi-structured interviews with 37 equid owners and corresponding livelihood surveys, combined with data from two focus groups with professional animal health practitioners and the welfare data of 63 working equids collected using the Equid Assessment, Research, and Scoping (EARS) tool, contributed to the findings of the study. Four principal influencing factors were found to affect the decision-making practices of equid owners. Infrastructural factors, community characteristics and experience, owners’ characteristics and experience, and economic factors all impact the belief structures of equid owners. However, without verifying the validity of the treatment measures being employed, some animals are at risk from hazardous treatment behaviours. By understanding decision-making using the theory of planned behaviour, the findings of this study can provide a crucial contribution to informing future interventions involved in the health management and welfare of working equids.

Journal
Volume
11
Issue
5
Publication date
Country

The role of working donkeys and mules in disaster recovery and community resilience

Status
Start date
End date
Country

This project explores the (often overlooked) role of donkeys and mules in sites of disaster, conflict and crisis. It offers various examples of how donkeys have supported vulnerable people in times of crisis, including war and conflict; drought and climate change; and natural disaster. Equids have a critical role to play in these contexts, to support the resilience and recovery of affected communities. However, the efforts of equids are rarely acknowledged in academic research, media reporting and international policy. This project foregrounds the role of working animals in humanitarian crises and, in doing so, expands the concept of ‘community resilience’. This is important for global development policy, resilience programming, and disaster risk reduction, including efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The project will include a desk-based review of the role of equids in sites of disaster, conflict and crisis, including how they contribute to community resilience, and a field-based investigation of the role of pack-mules in the recovery programme after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Methodology
  • A desk-based review of the role of equids in sites of disaster, conflict and crisis, including how they contribute to community resilience. This is informed by document analysis (policy papers, historical texts, and academic publications) as well as semi-structured interviews with key informants, primarily field staff working in frontline services in crisis zones (conducted between June-July 2020).
  • A field-based assessment of the role of pack mules in disaster recovery after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal; this component will include both qualitative (semi-structured interviews) and quantitative (structured questionnaires) tools to gain a complete picture from equid owners, people in affected communities and NGOs involved in the disaster response.

Quantifying poor working equid welfare in Nepalese brick kilns using a welfare assessment tool

Background

Across Asia the brick-kiln industry is expanding. In Nepal, urban dwelling has increased in recent years, raising requirement for low-cost, mass produced bricks to meet the population needs. Working equids (WEs) play a key role in non-mechanised kilns. Assessing the welfare of these equids is the starting point to addressing concerns. In line with One Welfare principles, the health and welfare of animals, people and the kiln environment are interlinked.

Materials and methods

In December 2019, 119 WEs were assessed in seven brick kilns in three districts of Nepal, using the Equid Assessment Research and Scoping tool, developed by The Donkey Sanctuary. The objective was to measure welfare at the start of the brick kiln season.

Results

Horses were the predominant species of WE. Hazardous housing and environments were seen in all kilns. Behaviour responses were mixed. Owner responses and animal examination indicated poor working conditions. Signs of harmful practice were evident in most animals. The majority were underweight, with poor general health, skin alterations and musculoskeletal issues.

Conclusion

The welfare of equids prior to starting brick kiln work is poor, posing significant concerns for the actual working period. Intervention to enhance health and welfare is required.

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

Understanding factors which influence the welfare of working equids in arid and tropical climates

Status
Collaborator(s)
Researcher(s)
Country

Continuation of previous Protection from the Elements project, to extend work to cover arid and tropical climates.

Methodology

Data collection for baseline study of shelter seeking behaviour in Portugal and Spain, plus working equid owner questionnaire. Collect data on current working equid management practices and protection from the elements (PFE) in Mescal growing regions in Mexico with comparison to communities in Vera Cruz.

Subscribe to working equids