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.

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