8 December 2015

Fifty years of the Five Freedoms

Fifty years ago an innovative report was published which outlined a practical animal welfare framework for animal owners and carers around the world. Brooke, along with many other institutions, governments, academia and industry, still uses this framework today.

Officially known as the “Report of the Technical Committee to enquire into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems”, it was commissioned partly in response to the concerns in Ruth Harrison’s 1964 book “Animal Machines” to look into the welfare of intensively farmed animals.

    [Animals should have] the freedom to stand up; lie down; turn around; groom themselves; and stretch their limbs.

    The Brambell report, as it’s now known, said animals should have: “the freedom to stand up; lie down; turn around; groom themselves; and stretch their limbs”. These are still known as Brambell’s Five Freedoms.

    This concept was developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council and became known as the "Five Freedoms” to help define the physical and mental welfare needs of a domestic animal:

    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.

    Although originally designed for farm animals, the Five Freedoms have been adapted for companion and working animals, and since 1965 have been used by international organisations such as the World Organisation for Animal health (OIE), the RSPCA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

    Over the years, other welfare frameworks continue to be developed but the Five Freedoms persist and still provide a simple framework for all. We ensure all our staff, wherever they’re working, understand them and work towards ensuring the horses, donkeys and mules they work with have these freedoms.