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How do we assess animal welfare?

Of course the next question is how do we assess the condition of animal welfare? This is not a simple matter as there are many ways in which we can evaluate, whether it is from a science perspective, ethics in animal welfare, or legal standpoints, all offer a different approach to evaluating an animal’s wellbeing. However, the simplest way to do this is through evaluating based on a globally recognized standard for animal welfare: the Five Freedoms for Animals. A British medical scientist, Professor Francis William Rogers Brambell, developed the Five Freedoms for Animals in 1965. The Five Freedoms known are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  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 behavior - 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 that avoid mental suffering.

All of the five principles above cannot be regarded as isolated freedoms. They are all interconnected. If one freedom is neglected, it will lead to another freedom being deprived. For example, if animals are not given ready access to food and water, it will lead to physical discomfort and potentially pathological diseases for the animals. Or perhaps we fail to provide an appropriate environment according to the needs of the species, then that particular animal will suffer as it will not be able to express its normal behavior, which in turn triggers stress and harms the animal’s psychological wellbeing. Without sufficient space and friends, animals will often become depressed and in the end this causes stereotypic behavior, which is a trait found in animals that suffer mentally and psychologically. And if left untreated, then animals may face distress, which is a pathological effect caused by the accumulation of stress.