brick kilns

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

Citation

Stuart L. Norris, Laura M. Kubasiewicz, Tamlin Watson, Holly Little, Atish K. Yadav, Sajana Thapa, Zoe Raw, Faith A. Burden. 22 June 2020. A new framework for assessing equid welfare: a case study of working equids in Nepalese brick kilns. Animals. 10:6. 1074.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
22 June 2020
Journal: 
Animals
Volume: 
10
Issue: 
6
Page numbers: 
1074
DOI number: 
10.3390/ani10061074
Abstract

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.

Full paper is available open access.

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Cultural “blind spots,” social influence and the welfare of working donkeys in brick kilns in Northern India

Citation

Tamlin Watson, Laura M. Kubasiewicz, Natasha Chamberlain, Caroline Nye, Zoe Raw, Faith A. Burden. 29 April 2020. Cultural “blind spots,” social influence and the welfare of working donkeys in brick kilns in Northern India. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 7. 214.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
29 April 2020
Volume: 
7
Page numbers: 
214
DOI number: 
10.3389/fvets.2020.00214
Abstract

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work across the globe to improve the welfare of working equids. Despite decades of veterinary and other interventions, welfare issues persist with equids working in brick kilns. Engagement with all stakeholders is integral to creating abiding improvements to working equid welfare as interventions based purely on reactive measures fail to provide sustainable solutions. Equid owners, particularly those in low to middle-income countries (LMICs), may have issues such as opportunity, capacity, gender or socio-economic status, overriding their ability to care well for their own equids. These “blind spots” are frequently overlooked when organizations develop intervention programs to improve welfare. This study aims to highlight the lives of the poorest members of Indian society, and will focus on working donkeys specifically as they were the only species of working equids present in the kilns visited. We discuss culture, status, religion, and social influences, including insights into the complexities of cultural “blind spots” which complicate efforts by NGOs to improve working donkey welfare when the influence of different cultural and societal pressures are not recognized or acknowledged. Employing a mixed-methods approach, we used the Equid Assessment Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, a questionnaire based equid welfare assessment tool, to assess the welfare of working donkeys in brick kilns in Northern India. In addition, using livelihoods surveys and semi-structured interviews, we established owner demographics, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion and their personal accounts of their working lives and relationships to their donkeys. During transcript analysis six themes emerged: caste, ethnicity, inherited knowledge; social status, and impacts of ethnic group and caste; social status and gender; migration and shared suffering; shared suffering, compassion; religious belief, species hierarchy. The lives led by these, marginalized communities of low status are driven by poverty, exposing them to exploitation, lack of community cohesion, and community conflicts through migratory, transient employment. This vulnerability influences the care and welfare of their working donkeys, laying bare the inextricable link between human and animal welfare. Cultural and social perspectives, though sometimes overlooked, are crucial to programs to improve welfare, where community engagement and participation are integral to their success.

Full paper is available Open Access.

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The value of donkeys and mules. Bridging the gap between international partners

Citation

Laura M. Kubasiewicz, Tamlin Watson, Natasha Chamberlain, Caroline Nye, Zoe Raw. 17 September 2017. The value of donkeys and mules. Bridging the gap between international partners. Poster presented at Fourth Annual Meeting of Animal Welfare Research Network. (16 September - 17 September 2019). Bristol, United Kingdom.

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Presentation details
Date presented: 
Sunday 17 September 2017
Abstract

Donkeys and mules have long been a cornerstone in human existence, both in industry and by supporting rural life. Donkeys play a particularly multifarious role in rural communities, from carrying water, food and crops, to aiding disaster relief efforts in areas that are inaccessible by vehicle. Despite their critical and central role in such environments, donkeys and mules are the ‘forgotten animals’, falling between gaps in legislation aimed at supporting rural households that rely on working animals. Neither donkeys nor mules are considered livestock, nor are they considered domestic pets, and they certainly fall outside many development or welfare agendas. Our ‘Value of Donkeys and Mules’ project aims to identify the role these animals play in rural households, and to quantify the value they bring to rural livelihoods. Further, we aim to identify links between the socio-economic status and cultural beliefs of equine owners and the welfare of their equines.

Working closely with international partner organisations, we have visited the brick kilns in India, where the transport of bricks by donkeys provides the main source of income for many rural households; and mountainous regions of Nepal, where mules are the primary method of transportation for both people and goods in otherwise isolated communities. During fieldwork it quickly became clear that, as well as understanding the beliefs and nuances of the communities we visited, we also needed to recognise the markedly different perceptions and motivations between ourselves and our partner organisations, as well as between researchers, assistants, and interpreters.

Whilst we had designed a seemingly robust study in theory, we were to embark on a steep learning curve when applying these designs in different cultural settings. I will present the early findings of our research in India, alongside the challenges and insights gained from working overseas.

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