Beyond freedom

The concept of the Five Freedoms was developed in order to set minimum standards that must be considered when managing farmed animals. The standards involved aspects such as housing, feeding, husbandry, disease prevention as well as control, management and slaughter. These principles were developed for farmed animals but are also used as guidelines for laboratory animals, pets and sport animals.

In this article below David Mellor sets out the concept that welfare management should include the promotion of positive experiences and not just the freedom from negative experiences.

Simple summary

A Five Provisions/Welfare Aims paradigm has been formulated as a coherent alternative to the Five Freedoms. It retains the memorable simplicity of the original paradigm and is linked to it, but avoids the acknowledged complications that arise by using the term “freedoms”. Also, it accommodates current scientific understanding of animal welfare, is easily understood and provides guidance on beneficial objectives for animal welfare management. It is an evocative and engaging paradigm anticipated to be of particular interest to non-specialist members of the lay public who are concerned about animal welfare.


Although the Five Freedoms paradigm has been very influential in shaping animal welfare thinking for the last two decades, it has two key disadvantages. First, the focus on “freedom” from a range of negative experiences and states has been misunderstood in a number of quarters to mean that complete freedom from these experiences and states is possible, when in fact the best that can be achieved is for them to be minimised. Second, the major focus of the Freedoms on negative experiences and states is now seen to be a disadvantage in view of current understanding that animal welfare management should also include the promotion of positive experiences and states. The challenge therefore was to formulate a paradigm that overcame these two main problems and yet was straightforward enough to be accessible to non-specialists, including members of the lay public who are interested in animal welfare. This was achieved by highlighting the Five Provisions, originally aligned with the Five Freedoms, but now updated to direct welfare management towards activities that both minimise negative experiences or states and promote positive experiences or states as specified by particular Animal Welfare Aims assigned to each Provision. Aspects of the four welfare principles from the European Welfare Quality assessment system (WQ®) and elements of all domains of the Five Domains Model for animal welfare assessment have been incorporated into the new Five Provisions/Welfare Aims paradigm. Thus, the paradigm is easily understood and provides clear guidance on beneficial objectives for animal welfare management. It is anticipated that the paradigm will have application to many species found in a wide range of circumstances.

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