Social license to operate: UK group explains why public acceptance is crucial for equestrian sports – and how to keep it – Horse Racing News


Public image has been on the minds of many horse racing in recent years more than ever before. Sports stakeholders are becoming increasingly familiar with the phrase “social license to operate,” a term that refers to the general public’s tolerance for an activity, regardless of its legality.

World Horse Welfare, a charity based in the UK, has devoted significant resources to studying the social license of various equestrian sports. Recently, two of the charity’s representatives co-authored an article in the academic journal Animals review the social license of equestrian sports and compare it to other industries.

The authors of the article looked at other animal use industries like dairy and sheep farming, wildlife zoos, hunting and circuses as well as natural resource areas like fishing, forestry and production. of energy. They found that the public risked denying an industry their social license to operate if they lost faith in their stakeholders and did not believe that those stakeholders would do an adequate job of protecting animal and human welfare.

In the case of animal use industries like equestrian sport, the study authors pointed to changing public opinion about what constitutes animal welfare, as well as the development of technology that makes it easy for someone to record videos or photos and distribute them in bulk. An increase in the academic study of animal learning and welfare has also influenced the way people look at animals.

The authors of the study say that these developments are not only impacting non-equestrian audiences, they are also seeing changes within equine sport.

“These changing attitudes are reflected in changes to competition rules and, in some cases, the introduction of comprehensive horse welfare strategies and recommendations,” the authors wrote. “Initiatives to promote best practice have also been implemented across a number of disciplines, including the Best Fitness, Best Condition in Endurance Competition and Best Shoeing awards. Other measures recently introduced to promote the positive protection of the safety and welfare of equines include improved provisions for the repatriation and rehabilitation of retired racehorses, “fitness to the race” before the race, the use of crushable and flimsy devices in cross-country fencing, changes to the design and placement of hurdles and obstacle course fencing, advances in safety training officials, changing rules for types and fit of horse tack and falls, generating falls and safety databases, and improving post-exercise cooling protocols. ”

Still other protocols have sought to address the psychological well-being of horses, such as trimming nose hair, abusive training method, and the use of whipping.

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However, all this may not be enough.

The authors suggest that proactive and simultaneous strategies are needed to maintain public trust in an industry.

“In this context, being proactive means taking ownership of the issues and embracing the reform,” the review noted. “Combined with transparency of operations, this approach has been successful in both protecting and repairing an industry’s SLO. This contrasts with a reactive approach to social license issues that essentially denies there is a problem and relies on positive public messaging to repair reputation.

The public, the authors argue, is more discerning than many realize and can distinguish between meaningful science-based reforms and “unsubstantiated positive messages”.

Establishing public trust means that the public must both believe that stakeholders are willing and able to remain proactive in anticipating and reducing risks to animals and people. That sometimes means talking to the public – even if they’re outside the self-limiting world of riding.

“Optimal stakeholder engagement is honest, transparent and collaborative consultation and communication,” the report reads. “If communication is to be truly collaborative, sport must understand the beliefs and desires of all stakeholders – including sport critics – and engage with them in constructive dialogue. Undoubtedly, corresponding with the general public and those who criticize equestrianism can be uncomfortable, but proactive engagement with stakeholders and establishing a shared vision for the future of the sport are key drivers for the license. social.

You can find the full article here.

Milton S. Rodgers