A coherent and engaging upgrade on the Five Freedoms paradigm

Mellor, D.J. (2016). Moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” by Updating the “Five Provisions” and Introducing Aligned “Animal Welfare Aims”. Animals, 6, 59.

The current review proposes a more appealing and innovative alternative version to the Five Freedoms paradigm by avoiding and reconfiguring the “freedoms” terminology, and by incorporating the current scientific understanding of what animal welfare represents. The new proposed paradigm presented maintains the simplicity of the original Five Freedoms, is easily understood, and provides a more objective guidance for animal welfare management. Therefore, it is foreseen that this new reconfigured paradigm can be applicable to a variety of animal species found in a wide range of different circumstances.

The Five Freedoms paradigm has shown to be extremely influential on animal welfare management. Nevertheless, it presents certain disadvantages: it can be misleading due to the terminology used for each one of the Five Freedoms, and their individual achievement through the use of the Five Provisions. This paradigm also lacks the promotion of positive experiences and states that animal welfare management should include. The current review by the renowned animal welfare expert David J Mellor, proposes a reconfiguration of the Five Freedoms paradigm - in order to create a more innovative and accurate version, which is more in tune and up to date with the scientific understanding of what animal welfare represents.

There are a few issues that arise when assessing the Five Freedom paradigm: The use of the Five Provisions has seemed to be more efficacious than the use of the Five Freedoms when assessing and improving animal welfare. It is not possible to completely eliminate the negative experiences invoked in the Five Freedom paradigm, due to the necessary biological internal and external conditions (for example, the feeling of thirst is necessary to elicit drinking behaviour, to avoid dehydration). Moreover, there is the need to broaden animal welfare management to also include the recognition and promotion of positive experiences or emotional states.

The new updated paradigm promotes positive experiences or emotional states

In order to avoid possible misunderstandings and confusions, the author suggests that the issues cited above should be tackled by: avoiding referring to the Five Freedoms; giving more relevance to an updated version of the Five Provisions, where both negative and positive experiences are addressed; and by coordinating each of the Provisions with pertinent and emphatic animal welfare aims. The new proposed paradigm holds a current scientific understanding of animal welfare, is easily understood and provides accurate guidance and instructions on beneficial objectives for animal welfare management.

It also considers models of welfare principles described by other Conceptual Frameworks. These principles aim at the functional means needed to accomplish desirable welfare outcomes by minimising negative experiences and promoting positive ones. They account for physical and functional domains (e.g. behaviour and biological balance), as well as the mental state of the animals, to represent animal welfare status. The updated paradigm gives great emphasis on the promotion of opportunities for positive mental experiences and positive welfare states. Furthermore, it describes animal welfare in a more understandable and accessible way for all non-professionals and members of the public that express an interest and concern about animal welfare issues.

To conclude, the recommended paradigm presented in this review is a reconfigured version of the original Five Freedoms paradigm. By avoiding the use of the terminology “freedoms” it holds an up to date scientific comprehension of what represents and encompasses animal welfare. Moreover, it is clear and concise, and provides accurate direction and instructions for a better use of good animal welfare management practices, that can be applicable to a variety of animal species found in a wide range of different circumstances. Furthermore, this reconfigured paradigm is future focused, has the opportunity to thrive, and is expected to be of interest to everyone that expresses an interest and concern about animal welfare issues.

World Animal Protection’s view

We welcome up-to-date animal welfare frameworks which not only promotes the physical health and welfare of an animal, but also promotes their positive emotional states too. We particularly like that this clear and concise reconfiguration of the Five Freedoms is more understandable and accessible for animal welfare protection organisations and lay people alike. This will help us in our work to achieve a life worth living for all animals.