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      A New Framework for Assessing Equid Welfare: A Case Study of Working Equids in Nepalese Brick Kilns

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          Abstract

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          Brick kilns are difficult environments in which to maintain a high level of equid welfare, with equids experiencing poor nutrition, inadequate veterinary care, wounds and musculoskeletal problems from ill-fitting equipment used to transport heavy loads—all of which are exacerbated by hot and dusty working conditions. The Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool was used to understand the health, behaviour, nutrition, housing and working conditions of working equids in Nepalese brick kilns to better understand ways of improving their welfare. The information gathered using the EARS tool was summarised using the Welfare Aggregation and Guidance (WAG) tool to pinpoint areas of welfare concern and suggest possible mitigation strategies. Overall, results indicate that to improve the welfare of equids working in Nepalese brick kilns, there should be better access to clean water, both when working and stabled, which would improve nutritional welfare. Equipment should be removed during rest periods, which may reduce the number of scars and swellings observed. There should be improvements to the housing regime to allow the equids to rest and recuperate. We show that the attitudes of handlers towards their equid has an impact on the welfare conditions of the equid and suggest training programs to address this, specifically focusing on the impacts of using harmful practices such as hobbling or tethering.

          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.

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          Most cited references31

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          RStudio: A Platform-Independent IDE for R and Sweave

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            Using behaviour to assess animal welfare

            MS Dawkins (2004)
            Rather than construct lists of many different welfare indicators and give each of them the same weight, I argue that the assessment of animal welfare should be directed at answering two key questions: I) Are the animals healthy? 2) Do they have what they want? Behaviour has a major role in answering both. Behaviour is currently used to help answer the first question through its use in the clinical and pre-clinical assessment of pain, injury and disease, and potentially could have an even greater role, particularly if used in conjunction with new technology. Behaviour is also of crucial importance in gauging what animals want, most obviously in the use of choice and preference tests, but also through other methods that are particularly suitable for on-farm welfare assessment. These include quantitative observations of the spatial distribution of animals and of behavioural ‘indicators’ of what animals want, such as vocalisations.
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              A standardised equine-based welfare assessment tool used for six years in low and middle income countries

              The majority of horses, donkeys and mules (equids) are in low- and middle-income countries, where they remain a key source of labour in the construction, agriculture and tourism industries, as well as supporting households daily through transporting people and staple goods. Globally, approximately 600 million people depend on working equids for their livelihood. Safeguarding the welfare of these animals is essential for them to work, as well as for the intrinsic value of the animal’s quality of life. In order to manage animal welfare, it must be measured. Over the past decade, welfare assessment methodologies have emerged for different species, more recently for equids. We present the Standardised Equine-Based Welfare Assessment Tool (SEBWAT) for working equids. The tool is unique, in that it has been applied in practice by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) for six years across Low-Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). We describe the revision of the tool from an original to a second version, the tool methodology and user training process and how data collection and analysis have been conducted. We describe its application at scale, where it has been used more than 71,000 times in 11 countries. Case study examples are given from the tool being used for a needs assessment in Guatemala and monitoring welfare change in Jordan. We conclude by describing the main benefits and limitations for how the tool could be applied by others on working equids in LMICs and how it may develop in the future.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Animals (Basel)
                Animals (Basel)
                animals
                Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
                MDPI
                2076-2615
                22 June 2020
                June 2020
                : 10
                : 6
                : 1074
                Affiliations
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: stuart.norris@ 123456thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk ; Tel.: +44-(0)1395-574599
                Author information
                https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4583-4426
                https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0831-9377
                https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2751-5149
                https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5220-6906
                Article
                animals-10-01074
                10.3390/ani10061074
                7341268
                32580418
                8f276812-12b1-4042-98c4-594b1e4ba454
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                History
                : 03 June 2020
                : 18 June 2020
                Categories
                Article

                welfare aggregation,equid welfare,brick kilns,resource allocation,handler attitude

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