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Article

‘Don’t Put the Cart before the Mule!’ Challenging Assumptions Regarding Health-Related Treatment Practices of Working Equid Owners in Northern India

1
Centre for Rural Policy Research, The University of Exeter, Devon EX4 4PJ, UK
2
The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth EX10 0NU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive Julian Christie Phillips
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1307; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051307
Received: 10 November 2020 / Revised: 22 April 2021 / Accepted: 27 April 2021 / Published: 1 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Donkeys and mules are still commonly worked across the world in place of mechanical vehicles. They are prone to various diseases and welfare issues, often as a result of poor working conditions. A proportion of the associated literature and a number of interventions are still driven by the assumption that the owners of working equids base their decisions on how to treat their animal upon economic factors or access to veterinary services. This paper uses a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the reasons behind why equid owners choose to treat their animals in the way that they do. It explores the various means by which they choose to do this and the avenues available to them. It identifies four factors which influence how and why owners of working equids choose to treat their animals in a particular way and highlights in particular the frequency with which traditional methods or ‘home remedies’ play a significant role in attempts to remedy the poor health of an animal. The findings demonstrate a greater need to validate traditional methods used, in order to promote better health and to reduce risk, as well as the requirement to tailor animal welfare interventions according to these influencing factors to encourage more sustainable outcomes for both animals and owners.
This paper challenges assumptions that the health management of working equids among some of India’s poorest communities is mainly dependent upon income, economic influence, or access to veterinary services. Using a mixed-methods approach, hierarchies of treatment practices are revealed through an examination of the ‘lived experience’ of equid owners in brick kilns and construction sites in northern India. Semi-structured interviews with 37 equid owners and corresponding livelihood surveys, combined with data from two focus groups with professional animal health practitioners and the welfare data of 63 working equids collected using the Equid Assessment, Research, and Scoping (EARS) tool, contributed to the findings of the study. Four principal influencing factors were found to affect the decision-making practices of equid owners. Infrastructural factors, community characteristics and experience, owners’ characteristics and experience, and economic factors all impact the belief structures of equid owners. However, without verifying the validity of the treatment measures being employed, some animals are at risk from hazardous treatment behaviours. By understanding decision-making using the theory of planned behaviour, the findings of this study can provide a crucial contribution to informing future interventions involved in the health management and welfare of working equids. View Full-Text
Keywords: working equids; theory of planned behaviour; donkeys; mules; decision-making; health; welfare; husbandry; ethnoveterinary working equids; theory of planned behaviour; donkeys; mules; decision-making; health; welfare; husbandry; ethnoveterinary
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MDPI and ACS Style

Nye, C.; Watson, T.; Kubasiewicz, L.M.; Raw, Z.; Burden, F. ‘Don’t Put the Cart before the Mule!’ Challenging Assumptions Regarding Health-Related Treatment Practices of Working Equid Owners in Northern India. Animals 2021, 11, 1307. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051307

AMA Style

Nye C, Watson T, Kubasiewicz LM, Raw Z, Burden F. ‘Don’t Put the Cart before the Mule!’ Challenging Assumptions Regarding Health-Related Treatment Practices of Working Equid Owners in Northern India. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1307. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051307

Chicago/Turabian Style

Nye, Caroline, Tamlin Watson, Laura M. Kubasiewicz, Zoe Raw, and Faith Burden. 2021. "‘Don’t Put the Cart before the Mule!’ Challenging Assumptions Regarding Health-Related Treatment Practices of Working Equid Owners in Northern India" Animals 11, no. 5: 1307. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051307

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