United Kingdom

Linguistic representations of donkeys in UK popular media and the implications for welfare

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Date presented: 
Friday 4 September 2020
Abstract

A growing body of work has explored the effect of language on the way animals are perceived and treated by humans. This paper reports the main findings from a systematic study of the language associated with donkeys in British culture and how their representations affect the ways in which these animals are understood and treated. A digitised body of texts (a ‘corpus’) about donkeys was gathered from domains including news, social media, and animal welfare organisation texts. The corpus comprised one million words and was examined using specialist linguistic software for salient patterns in the grammar and lexis, which we then explored qualitatively (using techniques from discourse studies) to draw out the key characteristics of discourse about donkeys. Findings reveal the ways in which human dominance and social inequality (i.e. speciesist ideologies) are present in – and perpetuated by – language about donkeys. Donkeys feature in public discourses as victims in shock-value stories involving bestiality and (often extreme) acts of cruelty; as objects of entertainment in uplifting or entertaining soft-news stories; as objects of ridicule in zoomorphic representations (particularly in relation to politics and football); and as objects of pity when they are treated as commodities and consumables in geographically distant places. The findings contribute to the growing body of work on the discursive representation of animals and have important implications for individuals and organisations seeking to promote and improve the welfare of donkeys. They offer a challenge to negative stereotypes and inaccurate understandings of donkeys, as well as harmful aspects of anthropocentrism in language use. For The Donkey Sanctuary in particular, they provide a starting-point from which to build more positive perceptions of donkeys by generating effective discussion and targeting communication amongst key audiences.

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Learning with donkeys: a ‘more-than-human’ approach to animal assisted activities

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Date presented: 
Friday 4 September 2020
Abstract

The last twenty years have seen an explosion of interest in animal assisted therapy (AAT) and animal assisted activity (AAA). Equines are used in a range of human service contexts. However, very rarely are the voices of equines brought to the fore, as the majority of studies focus on the benefits to humans. Drawing on empirical research with donkeys, this paper suggests how animal assisted activities might be rethought from a more-than-human (i.e. non-anthropocentric) perspective, contributing to the field of AAA and recent developments in animal studies / human-animal interaction. This presentation draws on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations of donkey-facilitated learning (DFL), at three regional Donkey Sanctuary centres, to understand the needs and interests of donkeys partaking in DFL sessions. Through our investigations, we revealed how AAA can be rethought in terms of animal work, as it often involves mental and emotional labour on the part of the animal. Secondly, we found that equine facilitators have a critical role to play in ‘tuning in’ to individual animal needs, to identify opportunities for positive experiences. Thirdly, we noted the importance of knowing individual donkeys for a more-than-human approach to AAA. Together, our findings highlight important steps towards less anthropocentric approaches in AAA. We have also demonstrated that more species-specific research is needed, including a greater need to consider the animal experience when designing, developing and monitoring AAAs.

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Morphometric characteristics of the skull in horses and donkeys - a pilot study

Citation

K. Merkies, Georgios Paraschou, P. D. McGreevy. 8 June 2020. Morphometric characteristics of the skull in horses and donkeys - a pilot study. Animals. 10:6. 1002.

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Publication date: 
8 June 2020
Journal: 
Animals
Volume: 
10
Issue: 
6
Page numbers: 
1002
DOI number: 
10.3390/ani10061002
Abstract

Horses and donkeys belong to the genus Equus, but important differences exist between the species, many of which affect their management and welfare. This study compared skull morphology between horses and donkeys. Horse (n = 14) and donkey (n = 16) heads were obtained post-mortem, sectioned sagittally close to the midline, and photographed for subsequent measurement of various skull structures. Skull, cranial, nasal, and profile indices were calculated for topographical comparisons between the species. The olfactory bulb area (OBA), OB pitch (the angle between the hard palate and the OB axis), and whorl location (WL) were also measured. A General Linear Model determined the main effect of species with Sidak’s multiple comparisons of species’ differences among the various measurements. There was no species difference in cranial or nasal indices (p > 0.13), but donkeys had a larger cranial profile than horses (p < 0.04). Donkeys had a smaller OBA (p < 0.05) and a steeper OB pitch (p < 0.02) than horses. The WL corresponded to the level of the OB in horses but was extremely rostral in donkeys (p < 0.0001). These results show clear differentiation in skull morphology between horses and donkeys. This may be useful in validating other physiological and behavioural differences between horses and donkeys.

Full paper is available Open Access.

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First record of besnoitiosis caused by Besnoitia bennetti in donkeys from the UK

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Hany Elsheikha, Gereon Schares, Georgios Paraschou, Rebekah Sullivan, Richard Fox. 3 June 2020. First record of besnoitiosis caused by Besnoitia bennetti in donkeys from the UK. Parasites & Vectors. 13.

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Publication date: 
3 June 2020
Journal: 
Parasites & Vectors
Volume: 
13
DOI number: 
0.1186/s13071-020-04145-8
Abstract

Background: The involvement of Besnoitia bennetti in skin pathologies was investigated in a series of 20 donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary in England, in the 2013–2019 period. Methods: The initial histopathological finding of Besnoitia cysts in skin lumps that were presumed to be sarcoids in 2013 triggered our cognisance of this parasite and resulted in identification of a total of 20 cases. Histopathological examination of surgical biopsy samples collected from 8 live donkeys and tissue specimens from 12 deceased donkeys at post-mortem examination revealed the presence of Besnoitia cysts in all 20 donkeys. The indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) and immunoblotting analysis showed the presence of anti-Besnoitia antibodies in archived serum samples from 4 deceased donkeys. Additionally, infection was evidenced in one live donkey based on IFAT and immunoblot analysis of tissue fluid of a dermal mass containing Besnoitia cysts, and real-time (RT)-PCR analysis and microsatellite genotyping of DNA isolated from the tissue of the same dermal mass confirmed the infection specifically as B. bennetti. Results: Both serological and microsatellite analyses confirmed the aetiology to be B. bennetti. Our findings suggested that in cases of skin masses such as sarcoids, the suspicion of B. bennetti infection should be borne in mind even when clinical and histopathology examination results are negative in order to avoid misdiagnosis. Conclusions: This case series documents, to our knowledge, the first report of B. bennetti infection in donkeys in the UK, indicating that donkey besnoitiosis has become noteworthy in the UK. Further investigations of the occurrence, epidemiological characteristics, and clinical manifestations of B. bennetti infection in donkeys and other equids are warranted.

Full paper is available Open Access.

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Demography, preventative healthcare and reason for relinquishment of donkeys to an equine charity in the UK (2013‐2015)

Citation

Elena Barrio, Ignacio De Blas Giral, Alexandra K. Thiemann, F. J. Vazquez Bringas. 15 June 2020. Demography, preventative healthcare and reason for relinquishment of donkeys to an equine charity in the UK (2013‐2015). Equine Veterinary Education.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
15 June 2020
DOI number: 
10.1111/evj.13310
Abstract

Background
In the UK, there are thousands of donkeys being cared for by charities; however, little is known about the reasons for relinquishment or their previous health status, with even less information available in published literature. Such information could help to identify factors contributing to poor equine welfare and guide the development of appropriate educational resources.

Objectives
To describe the characteristics of the relinquished donkeys and to better understand the current preventative healthcare status of donkeys relinquished into The Donkey Sanctuary.

Study design
Cross‐sectional observational survey.

Methods
A total of 596 donkeys were admitted during a 30‐month period. Each had a health check at arrival; and previous management information was provided by the owner. Data were retrieved from The Donkey Sanctuary database, inputted into a specific Microsoft Access 2016 database then exported for analysis in IBM SPSS 19.0 for Windows®. Mules and ponies were excluded from the study.

Results
Many donkeys arrived without a valid passport (32.3%) or microchip (49.7%). Only 23.2% were fully protected against influenza and tetanus and 21.0% of the donkeys had no previous anthelmintic treatment history. Geriatric donkeys often suffered from moderate to severe dental disease in need of advanced treatment, and 43.9% had received no dental treatment within the last year. Overall 26.3% of donkeys were classed as overweight and 8.6% were obese. The median time since the last hoof trim was 10 weeks.

Main limitation
The health status of the studied donkeys may have been affected by the reasons for relinquishment, and associations require further investigation.

Conclusions
This study highlights the need for improving preventative healthcare in donkeys to ensure better welfare within the population.

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Multi-kingdom characterization of the core equine fecal microbiota based on multiple equine (sub)species

Citation

Joan E. Edwards, S. A. Shetty, P. van den Berg, Faith A. Burden, D. A. van Doorm, W. F. Pellikaan, J. Dijkstra, H. Smidt. 12 February 2020. Multi-kingdom characterization of the core equine fecal microbiota based on multiple equine (sub)species. Animal Microbiome. 2:6.

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Publication date: 
12 February 2020
Journal: 
Animal Microbiome
Volume: 
2
Issue: 
6
DOI number: 
10.1186/s42523-020-0023-1
Abstract

Background: Equine gut microbiology studies to date have primarily focused on horses and ponies, which represent only one of the eight extant equine species. This is despite asses and mules comprising almost half of the world’s domesticated equines, and donkeys being superior to horses/ponies in their ability to degrade dietary fiber. Limited attention has also been given to commensal anaerobic fungi and archaea even though anaerobic fungi are potent fiber degrading organisms, the activity of which is enhanced by methanogenic archaea. Therefore, the objective of this study was to broaden the current knowledge of bacterial, anaerobic fungal and archaeal diversity of the equine fecal microbiota to multiple species of equines. Core taxa shared by all the equine fecal samples (n = 70) were determined and an overview given of the microbiota across different equine types (horse, donkey, horse × donkey and zebra). Results: Equine type was associated with differences in both fecal microbial concentrations and community composition. Donkey was generally most distinct from the other equine types, with horse and zebra not differing. Despite this, a common bacterial core of eight OTUs (out of 2070) and 16 genus level groupings (out of 231) was found in all the fecal samples. This bacterial core represented a much larger proportion of the equine fecal microbiota than previously reported, primarily due to the detection of predominant core taxa belonging to the phyla Kiritimatiellaeota (formerly Verrucomicrobia subdivision 5) and Spirochaetes. The majority of the core bacterial taxa lack cultured representation. Archaea and anaerobic fungi were present in all animals, however, no core taxon was detected for either despite several taxa being prevalent and predominant. Conclusions: Whilst differences were observed between equine types, a core fecal microbiota existed across all the equines. This core was composed primarily of a few predominant bacterial taxa, the majority of which are novel and lack cultured representation. The lack of microbial cultures representing the predominant taxa needs to be addressed, as their availability is essential to gain fundamental knowledge of the microbial functions that underpin the equine hindgut ecosystem.

Full article available open access.

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Understanding the Attitudes of Communities to the Social, Economic, and Cultural Importance of Working Donkeys in Rural, Peri-urban, and Urban Areas of Ethiopia

Citation

Martha Geiger, Jo Hockenhull, Henry Buller, Gebre Tefera, Mulugeta Getachew, Faith A. Burden, Helen (Becky) Whay. 14 February 2020. Understanding the Attitudes of Communities to the Social, Economic, and Cultural Importance of Working Donkeys in Rural, Peri-urban, and Urban Areas of Ethiopia. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 7:60.

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Publication date: 
14 February 2020
Volume: 
7
Issue: 
60
DOI number: 
10.3389/fvets.2020.00060
Abstract

Working donkeys (Equus africanus asinus) are vital to the development and support of people's livelihoods in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas of Ethiopia. However, despite their critical role in providing transport, food security, and income generation to some of the poorest and most marginalized households, donkey contributions to human livelihoods have been largely unexplored. Donkey users, veterinary surgeons, business owners, and civil servants were interviewed to investigate the role humans play in shaping donkey lives while furthering our understanding of the social and economic impacts of working donkeys to human lives. Findings are discussed through seven guiding themes; donkeys as generators of income, the relationship between donkeys and social status, donkeys and affect, empowerment through donkeys, the role of donkeys in reducing vulnerability and encouraging resilience, donkey husbandry, and gender dynamics all of which gave a broader and richer insight into the value of donkeys. Donkeys are an important support in rural, peri-urban, and urban settings through the creation of economic security, independence, and participation in local saving schemes. In addition, donkeys provide social status, empowerment to marginalized groups such as women and the very poor and provide a sense of companionship. Whether the interviewee was a donkey user or a key informant appeared to influence their views on donkeys and their welfare, as did their location. The variations in views and practices between urban and rural settings suggests that assessing the socioeconomic value of donkeys in different locations within the same area or country is critical, rather than assuming that similar views are held between compatriots. Despite their centrality to many people's lives in Ethiopia, working donkeys often hold lowly status, are misunderstood, and given little husbandry and healthcare.

Full text available open access.

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Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys

Citation

Elena Barrio, Karen Rickards, Alexandra K. Thiemann. 3 October 2019. Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 545-560.

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Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
545-560
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.013
Abstract

Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys should follow similar guidelines as for horses. There are species-specific differences due to the desert-adapted physiology of the donkey. Donkeys are mainly used as pack animals, companions and for production of meat or milk - they may be kept well into old age. Diseases often present late or may go unrecognized leading to poor welfare and quality of life. Basic knowledge of nutrition, blood values, pharmacology and common disease recognition will help veterinarians improve the health and welfare of donkeys.

Published online ahead of print.

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Hoof disorders and farriery in the donkey

Citation

Alexandra K. Thiemann, Luke. A. Poore. 3 October 2019. Hoof disorders and farriery in the donkey. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 643-658.

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Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
643-658
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.012
Abstract

This article provides a review of hoof anatomy and care in donkeys and mules. Hoof disease is a major cause of poor welfare and mortality globally. Problems associated with hoof disease are discussed in the context of behavior, diet, treatment, and prevention. The most common conditions encountered are discussed, including laminitis, the overgrown unbalanced hoof, white line disease, flexural deformities, and other significant issues. Differences between donkey and horse hoof anatomy are described.

Published online ahead of print.

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Respiratory disorders of the donkey

Citation

Karen Rickards, Alexandra K. Thiemann. 3 October 2019. Respiratory disorders of the donkey. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 35:3. 561-573.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
3 October 2019
Volume: 
35
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
561-573
DOI number: 
10.1016/j.cveq.2019.08.009
Abstract

Donkeys suffer from the same respiratory diseases as horses; however, owing to their nonathletic nature many conditions can present in a more advanced state before becoming clinically apparent. Anatomically, their respiratory tract is similar to the horse, with certain species-specific differences that are important to be aware of. Often donkeys do not receive the same level of routine care as horses, so many are not vaccinated against respiratory pathogens such as influenza or herpesviruses. Donkeys can act as a reservoir for certain infectious and parasitic respiratory diseases and the interpretation of diagnostic tests needs to be carried out with caution.

Published online ahead of print.

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