working equids

Documenting the welfare and role of working equids in rural communities of Portugal and Spain

Citation

Emily Haddy, J. B. Rodrigues, Zoe Raw, Faith A. Burden, Leanne Proops. 2 May 2020. Documenting the welfare and role of working equids in rural communities of Portugal and Spain. Animals. 10:5. 790.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
2 May 2020
Journal: 
Animals
Volume: 
10
Issue: 
5
Page numbers: 
790
DOI number: 
10.3390/ani10050790
Abstract

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.

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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