The five freedoms of animals: Understanding the universal standard of animal welfare

Animal care and welfare have become of greater concern for the general public. Based on social media activities of the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), more and more people are sharing their views, curiosity, and eagerness to understand how animals, pets and farmed animals, should be treated and cared for.

In reality, there are different ways of caring and raising animals depending on their breed, types and “usefulness”. But one way of ensuring animals are treated well and positively is to use the Five Freedoms as yardstick for satisfying the needs of the animals.

A rehabilitated dog at the AKF sanctuary freely roams and enjoys life inside an open kennel.

To understand the significance of the Five Freedoms, we can go back to 1964 when Ruth Harrison, a British woman, wrote “Animal Machines.” The book vividly described the way farmed animals were treated at that time that led to an outcry from the British public. This forced the British government then to commission professor Roger Brambell to look into the welfare of farm animals. In 1965, the committee came up with an 85-page “Report of the Technical Committee to Inquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems,” which became known as “The Brambell Report.”

The report, in sum, suggests that animals should have the freedom “to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs.” These freedoms became known as “Brambell’s Five Freedoms.”

How an animal is coping within its environment—including its physical and mental state—is considered when discussing the welfare of an animal.

The Five Freedoms are as follows:

Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: by making sure the animal has ready access to fresh water and provided a diet to maintain full health and vigor.

Albert, a traumatized dog rehabilitated by AKF, has been adopted by a loving pet lover of the Palma family in Tarlac.

Freedom from Discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

Freedom to Express Normal Behavior: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind.

Freedom from Fear and Distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

When AKF started saving slaughter-bound dogs in 1999 we were highly conscious of the Five Freedoms which led us to build a shelter in 2006 with kennels that have no cages. This understanding of the Five Freedoms provided us with an easy path towards the rehabilitation of the gravely traumatized dogs and has made our adoption program a success. We did not only nurse them back to great physical health but we made sure that they were also mentally fit to be welcomed by new loving families.

AKF is also campaigning for a cage-free farm system for hens.

AKF’s Cage Free Campaign

The impact and use of the Five Freedoms is widespread across the world. This code which enforces common sense in treating all kinds of animals is considered the gold standard in animal welfare.

The Five Freedoms encompass both the mental and physical well-being of animals. Every pet owner should know this manual and every farm-animal practitioner must adhere to this code. It is not complicated. It encourages common sense purely in the way that all animals should be treated humanely.

Let us educate each other. Help Animal Kingdom Foundation spread animal welfare awareness by discussing The Five Freedoms among ourselves. Let us do this together.

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