The 5 Freedoms

The five freedoms of animal welfare

Formed by the UK government in 1965, the five freedoms concept was first developed by the Bramwell committee. Initially, this concept was made by examining the conditions of farm animals. However, it is now widely recognised as being applicable to all animals. Although, the five freedoms isn’t a law it is a set of ideal standards for animal welfare that has been adopted by many governments and organisations around the world. The freedoms are listed as follows:


1- Freedom from hunger and thirst  

  • Animals should have access to fresh water and the right type of diet to maintain health and vigour.

Captive species are limited under this freedom as many are fed at routine times or scatter fed. Some facilities use scatter feeding as a source of enrichment. However, this is only classed as enrichment whilst the food is being consumed. Moreover, the type of food provided also matters as failing to meet these criteria means that an animal could be obese thus, failing the freedom. Especially as within some facilities guests do not seem to be prevented from feeding the animals scraps of food. Some visitors globally have commented that some exhibits have been found with either limited or no fresh sources of drinking water.


2- Freedom from pain, injury and disease  

  • Animals should be prevented from getting ill or injured by rapid diagnosis and treatment.

All captive species should have enclosures that are designed so that the interiors minimise the risk of injury and disease spread. Moreover, their enclosures should be cleaned regularly so that hygiene is the top priority to ensure prevention of disease.

The species should be given the adequate veterinary care whether the animal is ill or not. There have been incidents where visitors have witnessed animals that appear to be in physical pain, although many zoos and parks do provide regular medical checks by veterinary staff.


3- Freedom from fear and distress

  • Animals should not be faced with circumstances that bring about mental suffering, therefore, ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid it.

The well-being of an animal includes both the physical and mental aspect. Hence, although an animal might be physically fit their mental condition might be poor. Firstly, these are caused due to enclosure designs that fail to provide the right conditions for the animals to feel at ease. Some of these include lack of space in an enclosure when there is more than one animal, lack of areas within their enclosures to escape the constant view of the public and the placement of the enclosure near predatory species and loudspeakers.  Sadly, there are many species housed in facilities that are never provided with the option to avoid the aforementioned problems. In addition, situations such as the public harassing the animals through the transparent window or a low barrier should also be kept to a minimum to avoid the animals from being in fear and severe distress. Secondly, it could also result from the animals performing unnatural acts for shows or other activities that are not associated with their natural behaviour.


4- Freedom from discomfort

  • Animals should have an appropriate environment such as shelter and a comfortable resting area.

In the wild, animals are acclimated to a certain climate and environment which they belong to. Therefore, when being kept in a captive environment their suitability towards different climatic conditions but also the use of right substrates must be considered. This means that an animal from the arctic should not be kept in a tropical climate as they are not naturally acclimated to it. In addition, an unnatural substance like hard surfaces made from concrete or wire mesh should be avoided and the use of natural substrates and soft bedding should be employed.

This means that an animal from the Arctic should not be kept in a tropical climate as they are not naturally suited to it. In addition, an unnatural substance like hard surfaces made from concrete or wire mesh should be avoided and the use of natural substrates and soft bedding should be employed.


5- Freedom to express normal behaviour

  • Animals should be provided with sufficient space, proper facilities and a company of their own kind.

Animals should be able to carry out normal patterns of behaviour as they do in the wild. Therefore, disregarding their environment and their behavioural needs can lead to abnormal behaviours like self-mutilation or repetitive motions, for example, swaying and rocking.

The five freedoms cannot be always attained for most wild and exotic animals but it is suggested that an animal keeper should always aim to provide the five freedoms. Failure to do so signifies that the animals are not fit to be kept in permanent captivity within the facilities.


Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use License – the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

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