Farm Animal Welfare Council


Five Freedoms

The welfare of an animal includes its physical and mental state and we consider that good animal welfare implies both fitness and a sense of well-being. Any animal kept by man, must at least, be protected from unnecessary suffering.

We believe that an animal's welfare, whether on farm, in transit, at market or at a place of slaughter should be considered in terms of 'five freedoms'. These freedoms define ideal states rather than standards for acceptable welfare. They form a logical and comprehensive framework for analysis of welfare within any system together with the steps and compromises necessary to safeguard and improve welfare within the proper constraints of an effective livestock industry.

1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

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

3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.

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

Stockmanship - The Key to Welfare

Stockmanship, plus the training and supervision necessary to achieve required standards, are key factors in the handling and care of livestock. A management system may be acceptable in principle but without competent, diligent stockmanship the welfare of animals cannot be adequately safeguarded. We lay great stress on the need for better awareness of welfare needs, for better training and supervision.

The origins of the Five Freedoms

The earliest reference we can find to the Five Freedoms is the enclosed press notice (PDF 550KB) released by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) in December 1979, shortly after the Council was established by the British Government in July 1979.

The concept has been refined by FAWC over the years and is now the most visited page on the Council's Website.

It should be noted that the Farm Animal Welfare Council did have a predecessor, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (FAWAC), which was disbanded at the same time as FAWC was established, but the records from this organisation are not readily available. It is possible that, with some common membership of the two committees, the concept may have had its origins in the earlier committee but we cannot confirm or exclude this.

FAWAC was established by the GB Government as a direct result of a recommendation from the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4). This report explored a number of conditions affecting the welfare of farm animals and some would say that it inspired the Five Freedoms.”

Last modified 2 October, 2008
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