White calf sits down in hay outside
White calf sits down in hay outside

The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare

The Five Freedoms of animal welfare present a standard of care that is followed across the globe. Included in the UK government’s Animal Welfare Act 2006, they state that every living being deserves the right to humane treatment.

In 1965, an inquiry into the welfare of farm animals was conducted in the UK. As a result of this inquiry, people were made aware of the need for animals to stand up, lie down, turn around, stretch and be able to groom.

The concept was adapted a few years later, addressing the mental needs of animals as well as physical. This led to the Five Freedoms we discuss today – a simple but comprehensive concept that focuses on animal welfare.

What are the Five Freedoms?

The Five Freedoms are stated below. In 1993, the Five Freedoms were adapted to explain how animal owners can meet each freedom.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

It is crucial that animals always have fresh water available, as well as a suitable diet that keeps them healthy and energetic. These diets should be specific to the animal, taking into consideration the age, gender, breed and whether they have any specific health conditions.

2. Freedom from discomfort

All animals should be kept in a safe and healthy environment that has protection from the elements and a comfortable resting area. Soft bedding, access to natural light, an appropriate temperature and suitable noise levels should also be monitored and supplied. Care must be taken to ensure food and water bowls are properly maintained.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease

Vaccinating animals to prevent disease and illness is a must, as is providing treatment and medication if needed. The constant monitoring of animals is also necessary to pick up on injury or illness quickly.

White calf sits down in hay outside

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour

Normal behaviour, like moving as freely as possible in sufficient space, being able to socialise with another animal and being kept in proper facilities, is the fourth freedom.

Animals must be able to stretch every part of their body, run, jump and play. If they’re happier with other animals around, they must also have the option to interact with them. Some animals want to avoid others, and this must be respected too.

5. Freedom from fear and distress

Owners must ensure that the condition and treatment of their animals prevents any mental suffering. The fifth freedom states that the mental health of an animal is just as important as its physical health. Preventing overcrowding and providing a safe space for all animals are ways to ensure they feel protected.

Following the Five Freedoms of animal welfare means that owners support the health and welfare of the animals they care for, whatever their purpose. The Five Freedoms educate animal owners so that they know how to provide the best possible care to their animals.

How SPANA ensures the Five Freedoms are met

SPANA works tirelessly across the world to ensure working animals are receiving the best treatment possible. We work with owners to train them to meet the needs of their animals, provide vital veterinary care and supply equipment that keeps animals safe. SPANA teams advise owners on the welfare of their animals, including ensuring they have appropriate shelter and access to adequate food and water.

We also run education programmes for children and young people who are the animal owners of tomorrow. Across the world, our animal welfare lessons teach the Five Freedoms and help children to develop empathy and positive attitudes towards animals, changing their beliefs and behaviours, while teaching them to be caring and compassionate.

Thousands of people across the world, including in countries such as India, Morocco and Zimbabwe rely on their animals for survival. Help us make sure that working animals are treated properly. If you can, please make a donation, or browse gifts at our shop – all proceeds will help SPANA to improve the lives of working animals in need. We also have ongoing appeals that address specific issues that are happening now, and all donations make a valuable difference.

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