Human Behavior Changes Necessary to Improve Equine Welfare

Human Behavior Changes Necessary to Improve Equine Welfare

Welfare issues arise when animals are denied any of their five freedoms, and most animal welfare problems are directly due to human behavior problems.


All animals--including horses--have the right to their "five freedoms" (as established by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee): freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress. Welfare issues arise when animals are denied any of their freedoms, and most animal welfare problems are directly due to human behavior problems, according to one Thai researcher.

"Most veterinary intervention tackles welfare problems related to health and disease, but providing solutions takes away from prevention and the responsibility shifts from animal owners to veterinarians, creates dependence and is unsustainable," explained Siraya Chunekamrai, DVM, PhD, of the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation during her presentation at the 12th Congress of The World Equine Veterinary Association, held Nov. 2-6 in Hyderabad, India.

According to Chunekamrai, to achieve sustainable results, human behavior must change. However, traditional methods of changing human behavior (such as awareness campaigns, incentive programs, imposing legislation, and social marketing) have limited success in achieving behavior change.

Instead, participation is a key factor in inducing change.

For example, some equine communities invite owners to participate in workshops to address welfare problems instead of simply being on the receiving end of efforts to prevent or treat them. Chunekamrai explained that owner participation in such programs and human behavior change will address welfare issues related to the other freedoms, not just freedom from injury, pain, or disease.

"ROPES is the acronym for Responsibility, Ownership, Prevention, Empowerment, and Sustainability, which are the key concepts of the HBC (human behavior change) work," explained Chunekamrai. A more detailed summary of the ROPES concept and additional information regarding human behavior change is available at .

Chunekamrai concluded by saying, "Veterinarians are at the forefront of witnessing welfare problems and are often asked to take part in resolving the problem. If we take on an approach that can change human behavior it will make our efforts more meaningful and sustainable."

A full summary of Chunekamrai's presentation will be available for free on the International Veterinary Information System.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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