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Animals 2018, 8(11), 201; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110201

Examining Canadian Equine Industry Participants’ Perceptions of Horses and Their Welfare

1
Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
2
Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
3
Agrocampus Ouest, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, CS 84215, 35042 Rennes CEDEX, France
Current address: UMR BDR INRA ENVA Université Paris Saclay, 78350 Jouy en Josas, France.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 October 2018 / Revised: 3 November 2018 / Accepted: 5 November 2018 / Published: 7 November 2018
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Simple Summary

The Canadian equine industry is a diverse and fragmented industry containing a multitude of individuals whose different backgrounds and involvements shape their perceptions of the horses they use and work with. An online survey distributed to adult members of the Canadian equine industry (n = 901) was used to provide insight into participants’ perceptions of horse sentience and the welfare status of animals in the industry. Participants strongly believed that horses can experience emotions such as pain and fear, but these opinions were rarely reflected in their answers regarding welfare issues. Participants involved in disciplines having a history of using horses for work were more inclined to consider horses livestock, and this belief impacted their responses to welfare concerns, for example being less concerned about horses at auctions. While there was strong agreement regarding the welfare threats to horses in the industry, participants were more divided regarding the optimal ways to address these issues and which horses were most affected by them. Understanding these perceptions may be useful in the future to help direct educational programs and industry-wide initiatives, particularly in the area of equine welfare, in an effort to better the lives of horses through targeted knowledge transfer.

Abstract

The diversity of the Canadian equine industry makes determining baseline attitudes and beliefs a challenge. Adult members of the Canadian equine industry (n = 901) participated in an online survey to report demographic information and views on the role of horses and their ability to experience affective states. Questions regarding the welfare state of all horses in the industry, potential ways to address welfare issues, and eight short scenarios were presented. Qualitative analysis, descriptive statistics, and a Chi-squared test for independence examined survey results and potential relationships. Participants strongly believed horses were capable of feeling positive and negative emotions, particularly pain and fear, but rarely were these beliefs reflected in their answers regarding aspects of equine welfare, which may be due to the large bias in these beliefs. Lack of knowledge and financial difficulties were noted as the biggest threats to equine welfare. Overall, there was widespread agreement regarding the presence of welfare issues within the equine industry, but opinions were more divided regarding how to best address them and which horses were most at risk. Understanding these perceptions may be useful to direct educational programs and industry-wide initiatives to address equine welfare through human behaviour change. View Full-Text
Keywords: equine welfare; welfare perception; Canadian equine industry; online survey; affective states; human behaviour change equine welfare; welfare perception; Canadian equine industry; online survey; affective states; human behaviour change
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DuBois, C.; Nakonechny, L.; Derisoud, E.; Merkies, K. Examining Canadian Equine Industry Participants’ Perceptions of Horses and Their Welfare. Animals 2018, 8, 201.

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