Equine Welfare Indicators Often Biased By Popular Beliefs

by | 02.17.2020 | 9:19pm

It can be difficult for people to evaluate equine welfare without being influenced by commonly held beliefs. Often emotions and assumptions override scientific evidence though scientists and legislators understand the need to rely on this proven evidence, says Dr. Clemence Lesimple of the University of Rennes, France.

Scientific interest in animal welfare is driven by ethical, emotional and political concerns; these concerns require scientific evidence to evaluate them and make decisions. Lesimple sought to review welfare parameters and to differentiate horse-based welfare indicators from acute sickness, temporary states of pain, stress, discomfort and emotion.

Lesimple defines animal welfare as a chronic state that reflects an animal's subjective perception of its situation. The horse's welfare is indicated by postural, behavioral and psychological parameters. As horses are used for everything from work to sport to pets, they are exposed to an array of environmental conditions, some of which can cause harm.

When investigating equine welfare, Lesimple says it's important to ensure that the signs being recorded reflect a chronic state; that the signs are meaningful for animal welfare and measure what they are designed to; and that the definition and description of the signals are clear and identified beyond a doubt.

A horse can experience temporary fear or pain even when its welfare is good; the opposite is also true. Lesimple notes that assessing pain, fear or emotional level must be differentiated from a welfare evaluation, which should rely on visible indicators of equine welfare. Human perception should be removed from welfare evaluations to avoid emotional biases that may result in the drawing of incorrect conclusions.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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