Pictured here in this 2019 photo are a cow with calf and a yearling that a local resident said were left without water by their unknown owner. 19071512
The ‘Five Freedoms’ have formed the basis for animal welfare standards the world over since the 1960s. So what are the ‘Five Freedoms’? And how can they help us to have a positive impact on the animals in our care? Dr Ellen McBryde explains.
First, a tiny bit of history. Animal welfare concerns are
not new. In fact, public outcry over farming practices in the United Kingdom in
1964 led to government action, and the humble beginnings of what we now know as
the ‘Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare’. The first five freedoms that they
identified – Every animal deserves the freedom to stand up, lie down, turn
around, groom themselves, and stretch their limbs. Sounds fair enough, right?
By the end of 1979, these freedoms had been further
developed to encompass both the physical and mental health and wellbeing of
animals. And the ‘Five Freedoms’ were born.
So, what are they?
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – through access to fresh
water, and a good diet.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing shelter, and a comfortable
place to rest.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease – through
preventative health care or providing treatment as needed.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing enough
space to move, and company for social animals.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – to avoid suffering.
These freedoms have long existed as a benchmark for meeting
the basic needs of animals, and following them allows adequate welfare
standards for animals to be maintained.
But we as pet owners and farmers are moving beyond this.
Rather than simply working to prevent negative experiences, our aim should be
creating and encouraging positive ones. We should want the animals in our care
to have a good quality of life.
In acknowledging that physical aspects (such as nutrition,
environment, and health) have an effect on the overall mental state of each
individual animal, we can continue to work towards bettering our standards of
In the wise words of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham – ‘the question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?’