Thursday, 9 October 2014

Seeking alternatives to cruel hobbling

GAWF/Animal Action launched a new project against cruel hobbling this year and we kicked this off on Paros on the 7th of June during our outreach visit.

Almost every animal on the island is hobbled, (examples below) which is where two legs are tied together by rope, and in some cases tied again to other legs, in order to restrict movement and keep the animal in the desired location. During our previous visits we informed the owners about the dangers of hobbling and handed out leaflets but this year we organised a demonstration where we actually showed them, on site, how to use electric fencing as an alternative way of restricting an animal. 

Although Paros is a main tourist destination in the Cyclades, it still retains an active tradition of farming, where horses, donkeys and mules are commonly used to work in less accessible land, and cows, sheep and goats are all raised on the island.

The field boundaries on the island are low and easily breached so, to prevent animals from crossing into neighbouring land and causing disputes, they are hobbled. This form of containment, while used for decades, is harmful to the animals. In equines, being hobbled from early life causes musculoskeletal injuries, the skin is often cut and infected by flies, working life is shortened and the animals suffer. The effects of hobbling on all animals are the same and can lead to death. A hobbled animal can’t get over a wall but the temptation of food leads them to try. Hobbling makes regaining lost balance impossible and the result is too often a broken leg followed by a slow, agonising death.

Our demonstration showed that electric fencing is easily adapted to different animals and with modern solar-powered systems it can be made to operate in a way which demands very low maintenance. This system gives animals space for feeding, easier growth and better conditions. Free walking equines are less prone to injury, lameness, breed more easily and have a longer working life.

Nick Turck from Farmcare UK explained in detail the parts of an electric fence system, the use of each part, the way they are connected and the different ways of easily adjusting the versatile fencing to be used for the different species of animals.

Four kinds of leaflets were handed out regarding the bad effects of hobbling, the advantages of the electric fencing, the procedure of setting up a fence and information on general equine care.

It was a very successful first attempt to introduce a practical alternative to hobbling. The owners that attended were genuinely interested. Some had never used electric fencing and went home completely informed on it. Others had tried to use it in the past but had failed due to problems regarding the type of animals they used it for, the dry ground etc. A few owners found it so useful that they bought their own fencing straight after the demonstration, and went home ready to install it.

We intend to demonstrate this system to larger audiences, as well as introducing more ways of training equine owners and farmers to stop using cruel hobbling.


  1. even the cows, closed by fences, are hobbled, on syros. for a swiss woman, used to free cows in the mountains, it's unintelligible... i made a little video of the sheep near my house : : the FOUR legs are stobbled, 2 by 2...

    1. Thank you for sharing the video. That just looks excruciating and exhausting - those poor sheep. We will continue our campaign to educate animal owners and farmers on alternatives to cruel hobbling and will keep you posted here and on our Facebook page with any updates. Best wishes, GAWF UK

  2. Could you tell me what the legislation is, in Greece, regarding electric fencing. I've heard it is not legal... thank you !