Determining a Welfare Prioritization for Horses Using a Delphi Method
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH25 9RG, UK
Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Department of Animal and Veterainry Sciences, Central Faculty, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
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Received: 16 March 2020 / Revised: 30 March 2020 / Accepted: 7 April 2020 / Published: 9 April 2020
Horses are used for a wide range of different purposes and may be vulnerable to a large number of different welfare issues, some of which are unique to equines, such as responses to being ridden or trained. Compared to farmed livestock, their welfare has received less attention, but concern for their welfare is increasing. Welfare issues can arise from the environments in which animals are kept, how they are treated by their human caregivers and their health. To determine which of the issues are most important and may need the greatest attention in terms of research effort or owner education, we used a process of eliciting expert opinion. Through a series of surveys and ranking of issues, we determined that, in the opinion of equine experts, the most important issues for horses were poor disease prevention, issues arising when old or sick horses are not promptly euthanized, lack of owner knowledge of welfare needs of horses, fear and stress involved in horse use, inability of owners to recognize pain behaviour, obesity and inadequate feeding practices. Prioritizing different welfare issues can help to focus attention on the most pressing or severe issues causing the greatest amount of suffering.