Pain relievers and performance
A horse is taken to a local show by his owner, whose uncle is running the event and whose younger sibling will be competing. The horse finishes the first class and seems to be limping. The owner gives the horse an oral analgesic so that the sibling can ride him in a class later the same day.
This scenario generated the greatest consensus among the experts, with the prevailing feeling being that the horse’s welfare was at immediate risk. The median rank was 4, the highest of the study, with the range of between 3 and 5.
“There was a lot of agreement on this,” says DuBois. “Most of the experts felt that this was something that required intervention.” The fact that the horse was limping, she says, was a common thread among the openended responses experts provided regarding why they ranked the situation as they did. “Even for individuals who ranked this scenario lower than other participants, there was concern for the horse’s long-term health,” says DuBois. “While in the moment the analgesic reduces the pain---and thus ‘improves’ welfare---the potential for the horse to exacerbate the injury by continuing to use the injured limb also warranted consideration.”
This scenario raised an additional issue: Some participants indicated that, regardless of welfare concerns, it was not ethical to use an analgesic to continue to compete. “Ethics and welfare frequently overlap,” DuBois says, “and it is always particularly interesting to examine responses when they do.”