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News

Groundbreaking research set to reduce suffering of millions of horses worldwide

University Of Bristol : 03 May, 2007  (Technical Article)
New research is set to change the health and welfare of millions of working horses and donkeys in some of the poorest parts of the world. Equine welfare charity, the Brooke, together with the University of Bristol
Up until now, there has been limited information available about the welfare of working equines anywhere in the world. Over the last year, the Brooke/Bristol team of expert assessors observed the health, behaviour and welfare of nearly 5,000 working horses, donkeys and mules in their working environment across five countries, looking at a range of problems, from fear of humans, to malnutrition, dehydration, injuries and lameness.

It is the biggest survey of working equines ever to be conducted, and was achieved by observing each donkey, horse or mule directly ‘in the field’ in some of the world’s harshest environments, from the dusty brick kilns of Delhi, to the chaotic streets of Lahore to the war-torn ravaged communities of Afghanistan.

The initial results from this ‘welfare assessment’ is just about to be published in the veterinary journal ‘Preventative Veterinary Medicine’. While further welfare assessments are being carried out in new countries of operation, the Brooke/Bristol teams are now evaluating the complex causes of key health and welfare problems identified by the assessments, such as tail-base lesions, nose wounds, lameness and dehydration. The teams will also devise interventions to treat these problems.

Dr Helen Whay from Bristol University, who is leading the research project with Joy Pritchard, the Brooke’s Veterinary Advisor, explains why this project is so important: “The Brooke is now expanding its work to reach even more animals. This welfare assessment is critical because it allows us to assess suffering and causes of suffering, while continuing our very practical work. It also gives the Brooke a scientific means to measure its effectiveness, particularly as it expands and moves into new countries of operation in the coming years.”

“And because our welfare assessment techniques look at the animal itself,” adds Joy. “It has been possible to look at and compare the welfare animals in any environment, from the horses pulling carts on the busy streets of Pakistan to the mules carrying pilgrims to places of worship in the Himalayas”

There are an estimated 90 million working equine animals in the developing world, and with Brooke’s work showing that an average of six people are dependent on each working animal, this ground breaking research is not only vital in preventing untold suffering of the ‘(animal) engines of the developing world’, but also to safeguard the future of millions of people who are dependent on these animals for their livelihoods.

The Brooke currently helps half a million working equine animals across seven countries by providing free veterinary care, and training and education for animal owners via a network of mobile veterinary teams and community participation.
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