Understanding the Role of Environmental and Human Factors in Working Equid Welfare

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The One Welfare Framework acknowledges that animal welfare, human wellbeing and the environment are inextricably linked. This perspective is ideally suited to the study of working equid welfare because their close working relationships with humans and use for labour in often extreme environments mean that both environmental and human factors have a large impact on their welfare and vice versa. In Part One (Articles I and II) I demonstrate that the environment impacts equid welfare, both in a population of free-ranging, healthy equids and in a population of working equids across different environments. These results suggest that, firstly, appropriate shelter provision can enhance equid welfare and secondly that the extent of environmental influence on welfare is broad, affecting not only direct working conditions but also working roles and feed availability. High levels of covariance between the influence of the environment, species differences and social factors also demonstrate the complex linkages between environmental and human factors and working equid welfare. In Part Two I investigate the human influences on working equid welfare, beginning with the owner-equid relationship in Article III. Differences in owner attitude, including belief in aspects of animal sentience, impact equid welfare across cultures. Given the range of cultures and geographical locations in which equid-focussed animal welfare NGOs work, I examine the factors that make welfare programming effective. From both follow-up evaluation of community initiatives (Article IV) and interviews with experienced NGO staff (Article V), themes for successful initiatives emerged. These included the efficacy of multi-approach initiatives, tailoring initiatives to the context in which they will be implemented and effective engagement with communities. Overall my thesis extends our knowledge of the factors that influence the welfare of working equids, both environmental and human, and offers practical recommendations to ensure that welfare initiatives are maximally effective. Taken together these results demonstrate the utility of using a holistic approach to evaluate animal welfare that takes into account the context of the animal.
Date of Award27 Sept 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorLeanne Proops (Supervisor), Julia Brown (Supervisor) & Juliane Kaminski (Supervisor)

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