What is animal welfare?

Animal welfare refers to the physical and emotional state of an animal. It is impacted by the environment in which it lives and works, human attitudes and practices, and available resources.

At Brooke we aim for overall welfare to be good. This accepts that there can be good and bad experiences during the animal's life but that as far as possible, their health, life and comfort-sustaining needs are met.

How animals should be cared for, managed and used will evolve with scientific evidence and public opinion about what is right or wrong. In some countries, legislation is in place to protect animal welfare and it is a legal requirement to provide for the needs of animals.

Animal welfare guidance

Donkey in a shelter

The earliest, and most commonly known, animal welfare guidance is the Five Freedoms, which originated from a UK government report in the 1960s. The Five Freedoms are widely known and used internationally, across different species, to outline what animals need and want:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  • 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 behaviour 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.

We are currently evolving our use of existing animal welfare guidance such as PEN (physical, emotional, naturalness) to include the domains of animal welfare, which consists of five areas - nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental states - to help us understand what an animal is experiencing, both positive and negative.

Our animal welfare policy and guidelines

Two horses at a water trough

Brooke staff, partners and consultants are guided by our animal welfare policy which outlines what is required to meet the needs of the animals we work with.

The development of a culture of care towards animals is supported by guidelines relating to:

  • animal handling and restraint
  • responding to animal emergencies
  • use of animals in training
  • use of animals in (non-invasive) research, including ethical review
  • use of animals in fundraising and publicity
  • equine euthanasia
  • health and safety when interacting with equine animals
  • developing impactful welfare messages for information, education and communication materials
  • veterinary diagnostics, procedures and protocols
  • welfare assessment
  • working with universities

Applying it to our work

We believe that people who use or keep animals are responsible for - and should be supported in - ensuring their animals' welfare needs are met. This often relies on a broad approach and innovative ideas to overcome constraints such as the environment, poverty, low-status and limited resources.

It is our responsibility to contribute to a better quality of life for working horses, donkeys and mules, and regular appraisal and monitoring tells us how well life, comfort and health-sustaining needs are being met.