Ethical Assessment Of Wild Horse Welfare

Some people believe wild horses left to their own devices would live happy, healthy lives. While this might sound plausible, scientists and equine advocates have never had the ability to accurately assess the welfare of these free-roaming horses—until now.

Researchers in Australia and New Zealand have developed a protocol to assess the quality of life of wild horses and other free-roaming animals. Assessing a horse’s welfare is not easy: Accurate welfare assessment requires objectivity, scientific validity and repeatability, says Dr. Andrea Harvey, a member of the research team who invented the protocol. She, along with colleagues Drs. Ngaio Beausoleil, Daniel Ramp and David Mellor created a process that will allow different people to reach the same assessment of an animal’s welfare.

The team created a 10-step approach that will evaluate the physical and emotional status of free-roaming animals. The protocol uses the Five Domains Model with conservation in mind; the system details information that should be considered with different species, as well as how to observe and measure them.

The protocol then delves into specifics that are relatable to both scientists and lay people. They encompass measuring and validating welfare indicators and confidence levels, as well as creating “grades” for levels of welfare.

The scientists note that many well-meaning people project their own emotions and feelings onto the animal while trying to assess their welfare—this could lead the person to a very different conclusion than what the animal is actually feeling and is not an objective way to assess animal welfare.

The protocol has already been used to assess the welfare of brumbies in Australia, which, like Mustangs in the United States, has become politicized. The research team hopes that the creation of this protocol will assist in clear and ethical decision making regarding free-roaming horses.

Read more at Horses and People magazine.

Read the full article here.

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