animal welfare

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

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Saturday 19 October 2019

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

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 19 September 2019

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.

Harness pressure mapping and the development of technology for animal traction: a contribution for the welfare and performance of working donkeys

When conducted: 
1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019
Escola Superior Agrária de Bragança (ESA-IPB)
Core methodology: 
Different harness systems will be tested, controlling variables that can influence the results, such as draft work when performing different tasks, load displaced, balance of the load, etc. The force and pressure distribution beneath the working harness will be assessed, through the use of the CONFORMat (or similar) pressure mapping tool (Tekscan®). Pressure mapping tools have been used to investigate the relationship between contact surfaces in terms of pressure distribution and magnitude. In this study, the CONFORMat will be used to measure and illustrate visually the pressure effects at the contact interfaces between the components of the harness and the working donkeys’ body surface. Data will be collected from firstly static donkeys and then donkeys in motion.
This research will allow the development of easily transportable kit that allows to evaluate in situ any harness system used in donkeys worldwide, assessing its effectiveness and welfare of the animals, allowing to promote changes based on evidence based scientific knowledge.
To test existing models and/or contribute to the development of better and more adapted harness system for working donkeys, by assessing the force and pressure distribution beneath the working harness, while monitoring the general health and welfare of the animals.

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


Francesca Dai, Giulia Segati, Marta Brscic, Matteo Chincarini, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Lorenzo Ferrari, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, Michela Minero. November 2017. Effects of management practices on the welfare of dairy donkeys and risk factors associated with signs of hoof neglect. Journal of Dairy Research.

Publication details
Publication date: 
10 November 2017

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.
First published online.

Online references

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


Francesca Dai, Giulia Segati, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, E. Canali, Michela Minero. April 2017. Ensuring the welfare of the farmed donkey for the production of milk: an analysis of the legislation. Large Animal Review. 23. 59-64.

Publication details
Publication date: 
2 April 2017
Large Animal Review
Page numbers: 

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
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.

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


Francesca Dai, Giulia Segati, Emanueala Dalla Costa, Faith A. Burden, Andrew Judge, Michela Minero. April 2017. Management practices and milk production in dairy donkey farms distributed over the Italian territory. Macedonian Veterinary Review. 40:2. 1-4.

Publication details
Publication date: 
6 April 2017
Page numbers: 
DOI number: 

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.

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