welfare

Working across Europe to improve donkey welfare

The UK public and veterinary profession often think of the equine charity sector as dealing with issues directly related to the UK equine population - overproduction, rehoming, shelter and welfare. However, The Donkey Sanctuary, like many UK-based equine charities, also works in Europe and further afield to try to address a much broader range of issues.

Volume
1796
Start page
298
End page
300
Publication date
Country

Use of registered donkeys on the areas of natural constraint scheme in Ireland

Data concerning the numbers, locations and types of donkeys being officially registered (passported) in Ireland (32 counties) via horse passport issuing organisations were gathered. The numbers of agricultural area aid scheme (Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC)) applicants registering passported donkeys (as compared with horses) as livestock units (LUs), the numbers of donkeys they registered and the value of payments that thus accrued to the applicants are also reported for each of 26 counties for the years 2012 to 2014 inclusive. Equids have not been eligible for equivalent agricultural schemes in the six counties of Northern Ireland. Horse Sport Ireland registration data shows that two-thirds of almost 8000 donkey passport applicants over a 10-year period came from counties Galway and Mayo and that only one-third of donkeys registered were male. As per ANC figures reported here for 2014, there were over 2500 donkeys registered as LUs on ANC, at a payment value to their keepers (in the 26 counties) of almost €1.6M. Future iterations of the ANC scheme are currently under review with regard to limiting donkey eligibility criteria, for example, to females and neutered males. The future monetary value of (some) donkeys could be adversely affected by restrictions in eligibility and by the uncertainty engendered by the prospect of change with the potential for unintended consequences.

Volume
193
Start page
298
Publication date
Country

The prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has 7.1 million donkeys and mules, the majority of which are used as pack animals. Factors such as poor harness quality, long-distance traveling, and heavy cartloads have been linked to reduced work efficiency. Addressing the health and welfare of working equids is imperative not only for the animals but also for the households dependent upon them for livelihood. In developing countries, 75 % of working equids have gait or limb abnormalities, but the relationship between workload and prevalence of lameness is unknown. We examined 450 cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Lameness and workload were assessed through use of a survey and lameness exam. We found that 26.8 % of cart mules were lame, and acute lameness of the forelimb was the most common. Animals with poor harness quality were 2.5 times more likely to have sores and 1.6 times more likely to be lame. Lameness tended to be associated with cartloads >700 kg (P = 0.09), and there was a significant association between multiple-leg lameness and cartload weight (P = 0.03). The presence of sores was the best predictor of lameness (P = 0.001). Possible areas of intervention may include education to reduce average daily workload and improving harness design.

Volume
48
Issue
172
Start page
1483
End page
1489
Publication date
Country

The development of guidelines to improve dairy donkey management and welfare

Donkey milk is a valuable product for babies suffering from multiple-allergies and cosmetic production; therefore, new dairy donkey farms are opening around Europe. Little information is available for farmers on sustainable production of donkey milk, including animal welfare, milk production, and processing. Targeted dissemination of information on appropriate animal management would assist dairy donkey farmers in preventing welfare problems. This research project aims to develop guidelines on good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production. Different steps were followed to develop the guidelines:

  1. Identification of key issues for dairy donkey welfare, analysing the results of previous project and the available scientific literature
  2. Systematic review research to select promising solutions for each issue included in the guidelines
  3. Stakeholder consultation, in order to increase scientific soundness and to enhance their acceptability throughout the sector
  4. Guidelines drafting and revisions by stakeholders
  5. Guidelines launch.

The guidelines ‘Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production’ were launched in December 2017. They include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts. The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production. They comprise the following chapters:

  • Responsibilities
  • Feed and water
  • Housing and management
  • Donkey health care
  • Humane killing
  • Appropriate behaviour
  • Milking procedures.

The guidelines, translated in different languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Greek and Chinese Mandarin) are freely available online.

The guidelines “Dairy donkeys: good practice principles for sustainable donkey milk production” are freely available online in six languages.

The guidelines provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for anyone interested in donkey milk production.

The guidelines include suggestions derived from scientific literature and/or reported by internationally recognised experts.

Volume
18
Issue
1
Start page
189
End page
193
Publication date

Shelter seeking behaviour of healthy donkeys and mules in a hot climate

Exposure to environmental factors such as high temperatures and solar radiation levels present a welfare concern for many domestic equids. Understanding how these factors influence the shelter use of healthy equids can inform welfare guidelines. While there is research assessing horses’ responses to hot, dry climates, the use of shelter by healthy, semi-free ranging donkeys and mules has not been assessed. We observed the shelter seeking behaviour (SSB) of 109 donkeys and 21 mules, with free access to constructed shelters, across two locations during summer in Southern Spain. The location of each equid, either utilising a constructed shelter, outside unprotected or using natural protection, was observed. This was recorded alongside measures of environmental conditions including temperature, lux, wind speed and level of insect harassment. Equids were observed using some form of protection from the elements in 39% of observations. Increasing temperatures and lux levels predicted increased shelter use whereas temperature and wind speed were key predictors of outside protection use. Compared to donkeys, shelter seeking by mules was more sensitive to changes in a number of environmental factors including lux, temperature and level of insect harassment. Results indicate that rates of protection use are quite high in these conditions and that shelters are utilised under particular environmental conditions: high temperatures, high lux levels and increased wind speeds, indicating they are likely to confer a significant welfare advantage.

Volume
222
Publication date
Country

Shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate

Domestic donkeys descended from wild asses, adapted to the semi-arid climates of Africa, whereas domestic horses originate from more temperate areas of Eurasia. Despite this difference in evolutionary history, modern domestic equids can be found throughout the world, in a wide range of conditions, many of which are very different from their natural environments. To explore the protection from the elements that different equid species may require in the temperate climate of the UK, the shelter seeking behaviour of 135 donkeys and 73 horses was assessed across a period of 16 months, providing a total of 13,513 observations. The location of each animal (inside a constructed shelter, outside unprotected or using natural shelter) was recorded alongside measures of environmental conditions including temperature, wind speed, lux, precipitation and level of insect challenge. Statistical models revealed clear differences in the constructed-shelter-seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses. Donkeys sought shelter significantly more often at lower temperatures whereas horses tended to move inside when the temperature rose above 20°C. Donkeys were more affected by precipitation, with the majority of them moving indoors when it rained. Donkeys also showed a higher rate of shelter use when wind speed increased to moderate, while horses remained outside. Horses appeared to be more affected by insect challenge, moving inside as insect harassment outside increased. There were also significant differences in the use of natural shelter by the two species, with donkeys using natural shelter relatively more often to shelter from rain and wind and horses seeking natural shelter relatively more frequently when sunny. These results reflect donkeys’ and horses’ adaptation to different climates and suggest that the shelter requirements of these two equid species differ, with donkeys seeking additional protection from the elements in temperate climates.

Available online prior to publication in press.

Highlights

  • We observed the shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate.
  • Overall donkeys sought shelter more frequently than horses, particularly when cold (<10˚C), rainy and windy.
  • Constructed shelter use by horses was low but they started to move inside as temperatures rose (>20˚C).
  • Horses sought natural shelter more than donkeys when sunny and appeared more affected by insects.
  • Differences in shelter seeking behaviour appear to reflect donkeys’ and horses’ adaptation to different climates.
Volume
32
Start page
16
End page
23
Publication date
Country

Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate

Background

There are clear differences between donkeys and horses in their evolutionary history, physiology, behaviour and husbandry needs. Donkeys are often kept in climates that they are not adapted to and as such may suffer impaired welfare unless protection from the elements is provided.

Objectives

To compare some of the hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses living outside, throughout the year, in the temperate climate of the UK.

Study design

Longitudinal study.

Methods

Hair samples were taken from 42 animals: 18 donkeys (4 females, 14 males), 16 horses (6 females, 10 males) and eight mules (5 females, 3 males), in March, June, September and December. The weight, length and width of hair were measured, across the four seasons, as indicators of the hair coat insulation properties.

Results

Donkeys’ hair coats do not significantly differ across the seasons. All three measurements of the insulation properties of the hair samples indicate that donkeys do not grow a winter coat and that their hair coat was significantly lighter, shorter and thinner than that of horses and mules in winter. In contrast, the hair coats of horses changed significantly between seasons, growing thicker in winter.

Main limitations

The measurements cover only a limited range of features that contribute to the thermoregulation of an animal. Further research is needed to assess shelter preferences by behavioural measures, and absolute heat loss via thermoimaging.

Conclusions

Donkeys, and to a lesser extent mules, appear not to be as adapted to colder, wet climates as horses, and may therefore require additional protection from the elements, such as access to a wind and waterproof shelter, in order for their welfare needs to be met.

Volume
50
Issue
3
Start page
339
End page
342
Publication date
Country

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

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.

Volume
7
Start page
214
Publication date
Research output
Country

Assessing quality of life and welfare of donkeys in the UK

The role of donkeys in the UK and Europe has changed over the past 40 years, and is still changing – these equids are primarily used as companions, but also for tourism, therapy and increasingly for milk production. When it comes to the end of their lives and issues surrounding equine end-of-life care, a recent study highlighted that many donkey owners rely on their vet to provide them with information on quality of life (QOL) assessment, geriatric care and euthanasia planning. This article aims to assist veterinary surgeons in assessing donkey welfare and helping owners decide how to improve QOL or whether an end-point has been reached and euthanasia is indicated.

Journal
Volume
40
Start page
249
End page
257
Publication date
Country

The contribution of blended learning in the promotion of farm animal welfare

Roger Cutting
Presentation date

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.

Country
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