When companies include animal welfare aspects in their purchasing policies, they have in the past often resorted to the concept of the »Five Freedoms«. This simple and internationally known principle has been used to develop various evaluation systems in farming of animals, but the concept has significant weaknesses. It is therefore time to rethink the decades-old standard of the »Five Freedoms« and implement alternatives.
»Five Freedoms« are No Longer Up to Date
The British Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) formulated the »Five Freedoms« in the 1970s. At that time, it was the first concept of its kind in the animal welfare movement and as such became a milestone. In the meantime, however, the »Five Freedoms« have become out of date: Their goal – complete freedom from negative experiences – cannot be achieved. Such experiences can only be reduced. Furthermore, the »Five Freedoms« completely disregard positive experiences of animals, are hardly differentiated and do not define clear animal protection standards. In addition, science has gained numerous new insights into the needs and experiences of animals over the last 30 years, which are not taken into account by this concept.
»Five Provisions and Animal Welfare Aims« as an Alternative
The »Five Freedoms« have, over the years, been developed in different directions. We consider the most promising approach to be the concept of the »Five Provisions and Animal Welfare Aims«. It corresponds to the current state of scientific knowledge and allows for an expansion in case of new scientific findings. It can also help companies derive clear guidelines for rearing animals and according animal welfare standards.
The »Five Provisions and Animal Welfare Aims« were presented in 2016 by David Mellor, a professor at the Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre in New Zealand. He lists five provisions that aim, for example, at nutrition, behavior and health of animals and supplements these with related animal welfare objectives:
|Provisions||Animal Welfare Aims|
|Good nutrition: Provide ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour||Minimise thirst and hunger and enable eating to be a pleasurable experience|
|Good environment: Provide shade/shelter or suitable housing, good air quality and comfortable resting areas||Minimise discomfort and exposure and promote thermal, physical and other comforts|
|Good health: Prevent or rapidly diagnose and treat disease and injury, and foster good muscle tone, posture and cardiorespiratory function||Minimise breathlessness, nausea, pain and other aversive experiences and promote the pleasures of robustness, vigour, strength and well coordinated physical activity|
|Appropriate behaviour: Provide sufficient space, proper facilities, congenial company and appropriately varied conditions||Minimise threats and unpleasant restrictions on behaviour and promote engagement in rewarding activities|
|Positive mental experiences: Provide safe, congenial and species-appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences||Promote various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control|
The clear benefits of this approach include
- expressing animal welfare in easy-to-understand terms
- encouraging the minimization of negative experiences for the animal
- the promotion of positive experiences through practical measures that go beyond basic care.
We recommend that food businesses remove the »Five Freedoms« from their purchasing policies and replace them with the »Five Provisions and Animal Welfare Aims«. If the »Five Freedoms« are not yet included in the relevant documents, companies should speedily incorporate the »Five Provisions and Animal Welfare Aims« and develop measures to implement them through their policies. They offer a timeless framework that can be continuously updated with the latest scientific research results.