The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare
To you and me it is probably obvious. We have a cat or dog or some other exotic 'pet' at home. We care for it. It is our responsibility. The caring means that we want that animal to be both happy and healthy. Even if you don't accept the anthropomorphisms, it is in your interest to have a trouble-free animal.
Few think beyond the 'pet' concept, but all animals deserve consideration whether they are in the home, the yard, the farm, the zoo, the laboratory, the pet shop, the shopping mall or, to a degree, in the wild. As civilised people, we should/must give consideration and respect to those creatures with whom we share our planet.
It really doesn't matter what your culture is or how you were educated or even what the accepted norm is in your country. If the manner in which you treat your animals is wrong, it is wrong no matter how you try to excuse it. Wrong as it may be, it is a problem that needs addressing through education and regulation plus just a bit of condemnation to get things moving.
The Five Freedoms are logical, they are common sense and they should be what you use to gauge the quality of care and professionalism in a zoo, a farm or wherever animals are kept. It does not matter if the animals are being bred for sale or slaughter: they deserve to have their needs met at all times.
The Five Freedoms
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
1. Freedom From Hunger and Thirst
It really is obvious isn't it? Nobody wants to be hungry or underfed or to worry if there will be food that day. When you want a drink you want access to clean drinking water available. Drinking water should be freely available to all animals at all times.
2. Freedom From Discomfort
Discomfort covers a multitude of sins. No animal wants to feel the cold or to have the sun beating down on it relentlessly. It wants somewhere to retreat to, a place to rest in comfort.
Comfort is widely neglected throughout Asia where the Evil Philippine Dog Cage is almost a standard for dogs in pet shops and at home. Sadly because these cages are believed to be okay for dogs the torture is applied to other animals too. These cages are uncomfortable for a dog to live in. The wire bottoms causes pain to their feet ALL of the time. They are unnatural and cruel.
3. Freedom From Pain, Injury and Disease
Nobody wants to be sick or to be injured or feel pain. Animals are no different to you or I. We are supposed to be the intelligent ones, the 'thinking animals'. We have to ensure that animals under our care are not exposed to injury, disease or pain. A preventative medicine policy which includes vaccination and parasite control should be in place.
Animals mask pain and disease but professional knowledgeable staff see through that mask.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
A cramped cage will not allow normal behaviour to be expressed so available space is a consideration always bearing in mind that if you consider territory that quality of space is more important than quantity. A mate, or companionship of animals of the same species are important and particularily within a breeding programme.
A well thought out and managed enrichment programme needs to be in place and religiously adhered to.
5. Freedom From Fear and Distress
Within a zoo setting both fear and stress can be eliminated by cage structure and design. The comfort zone or flight distance is well known for many species. Animal enclosures should be big enough or so designed to allow animals to get away. They don't want the distress of disturbance whilst mating, sleeping or delivering, rearing or nursing young. Mental abuse is as bad as physical abuse.
Five very simple points. Easy to remember, easy to consider. The Five Freedoms overlap a little, but that is natural—and it is nature that in many ways we are trying to imitate.
If you believe your zoo or pet shop is missing the point, please send them the link to this article.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.