Written by: Heather Clemenceau
Most of our animal welfare audits and Codes of Practice developed for implementation on farms and in slaughterhouses arose from the core concept of “The Five Freedoms,” a set of internationally recognized animal welfare standards. The Five Freedoms, or FF, came to be when the British public demanded that the government appoint a committee to look into the welfare of farm animals. In 1965, the committee, chaired by Professor Roger Brambell presented the “Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals Kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems” which became known as “The Brambell Report.”
While the FF utilized the problem-solving methods of that era and allowed us to measure welfare, they were still focused on the superiority of mankind, which provided the context. Anything was permitted except for what was expressly forbidden.
We now understand that the Five Freedoms are insufficiently complex and therefore not tremendously helpful to animals since their focus was primarily concerned with the avoidance of negative experiences such as pain and hunger. Now, animal welfare is generally defined as the state of an animal in relation to its ability to cope with its own environment.
The knowledge that animals are conscious and capable of experiencing negative emotions is at the core of most people’s concern about them. So as we progress in a linear fashion to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of animal welfare concepts, the focus of legislative instruments should follow with a shift from cruelty to welfare.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was publicly proclaimed on July 7, 2012 at the University. The group of scientists wrote, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
True animal welfare is now considered to result both from an absence of negative experiences and from the presence of positive experiences or sensations, so that animals’ mental states are now a legitimate focus, along with preferences and aversions. The welfare significance of positive experiences has been promoted in discussion of the value of providing animals with “lives worth living’ or “good lives,” as opposed to “lives worth avoiding.” Laws and codes of practice must evolve to acknowledge the strong neurobiological drives in animals that are necessary for QoL to exist, even if physical needs are met.
In his recent and comprehensive essay, “Updating Animal Welfare Thinking: Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “A Life Worth Living, Dr. David Mellor (Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre – Massey University, New Zealand) has presented the Five Domains as the successor model to the Five Freedoms, developed “in the light of new scientific knowledge and understanding of animal welfare.” Like Temple Grandin, Dr. Mellor is also an iconic animal welfarist who recognizes that animals have emotional lives, that they can suffer deeply, and that if we continue to use them for food and in research we need to recognize this well-supported fact and do as much as possible to alleviate their pain and suffering. Dr. Mellor also delivered the plenary at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies annual conference on April 18, 2016.
Five Freedoms vs. Five Domains
“Both have utility. The Five Domains are clearly of use to animal behaviour and welfare scientists because they can embrace new knowledge and understanding, and provide pointers for new study. They can also be used for in-depth analysis of the impact of specific management practices (human actions) on animal welfare. For example, the FD approach has recently been used to evaluate the negative (adverse) welfare impacts of a range of procedures to which domestic horses may be subject, across a broad range of different contexts of equine care and training. This has been a valuable exercise. In the case of procedures that may be deemed necessary, such as castration, it encourages us to think carefully as to what constitutes both best practice and minimally acceptable practice. For other procedures, such as the use of the whip in horse racing, it addresses the question as to whether the alleged “benefits” can ever justify the cost. In this and many other examples, the FD approach provides a highly effective foundation for research and evidence-based conclusions as to the impact of the things we do on the mental state of the animals in our care.”
A Life Worth Living
“The concept of Quality of Life (QoL), recognises that animals have both positive and negative experiences and focuses on the balance between the two.
While the shift to QoL represents a much needed and long overdue transition from welfarism to a more compassionate moral framework, we can still do better. Most veterinarians and influencers remain focused on FF. Food animals still cannot have a “life worth living” even though we may be improving housing conditions that supposedly are more humane and allow for more movement/natural behaviours/socialization. It still fosters a paradigm in which billions of other animals are kept “comfortable and happy” after which we slaughter them for consumption.
FD and QoL initiatives are capable of lessening many of the priority welfare challenges for zoo and lab animals, pets and other companion animals:
- Unresolved stress/pain behaviour and pain management
- Inappropriate nutrition
- Inappropriate stabling /turnout
- Delayed death (animals may be kept alive inappropriately, prolonging welfare problems)
- Wild animals kept as pets or in poorly designed zoo enclosures
- Enclosures in shelters and zoos – light, substrate flooring, drainage, heating, ventilation, air quality, cleaning and disinfection.
- Drop boxes at shelters
- Lessening the negative effects of No Kill while promoting population management
- Methods of euthanasia
- Emergency medical care
- Parasite control
- Behaviour Modification
- Anaesthesia and improved surgical techniques and recovery
- Declawing of cats
- Neutering and spaying
- Improving lives for feral cats
- Position statements from veterinary groups and advisory councils
- Transportation to slaughter
- Shelter reference guides
- Codes of practice
- Lab animal QoL