Why do people whip donkeys?

Brooke uses human behaviour change science to understand why people whip donkeys in Kenya.

Whips are commonly used by donkey handlers in Kenya to direct and discipline their donkeys, often resulting in welfare concerns.

Brooke East Africa and partner organisations have attempted to address whipping; however, conventional community engagement approaches have not resulted in satisfactory or sustainable improvements and Brooke East Africa and their partners continue to identify whipping as a behaviour resistant to change.

Brooke commissioned Human Behaviour Change for Life (HBCL) to work with Brooke East Africa to design and undertake a study using human behaviour change science to gain a holistic understanding of whipping that could be used to inform the development of future interventions. 

The study also provided an opportunity to explore how Brooke could use human behaviour change science to understand and improve on animal welfare challenges.

Key findings and recommendations

Whipping was found to be a complex behaviour with a wealth of factors contributing to its durability in Kenyan donkey handlers. Factors relating to donkey handlers’ capability, opportunity and motivation to change whipping behaviour were identified. These provide insights into potential causes of whipping behaviour, the antecedents, maintenance factors and opportunities for change.

The findings enabled a holistic understanding of this complex and multifaceted animal welfare issue and have provided Brooke East Africa with the information needed to plan and develop informed interventions to reduce and ultimately prevent whipping.

Brooke has also been able to gain an insight into how human behaviour change science can be used to more fully understand issues that our teams encounter. In turn, Brooke aims to use methods grounded in human behaviour change science to work with communities and bring about positive change.

Using the science of human behaviour change to investigate use of whips on working donkeys