AFTER digesting a delectable animal welfare piece in an April edition of Pig Progress by Monique Pairis-Garcia, veterinarian and associate professor at North Carolina State University in the US, I thought I’d review the RSPCA’s view on the Five Freedoms Animal Welfare model and how it’s standing up to the increasingly observed Five Domains model.
According to the RSPCA ‘knowledge base’, the latter approach allows a distinction to be made between the physical and functional factors that affect an animal’s welfare, and the overall mental state of the animal arising from these factors.
Over the past 20 years, this paradigm has been widely adopted as a tool for assessing the welfare impacts of research procedures, pest animal control methods and other interventions in animals’ lives.
The Five Freedoms and Five Domains frameworks contain essentially the same five elements.
However, the Five Domains explore the mental state of an animal in more detail and acknowledge that for every physical aspect that is affected, there may be an accompanying emotion or subjective experience that may also affect welfare.
This is useful in terms of reinforcing the message that emotional needs are as important as physical needs for animals.
One of the most important strengths of the Five Domains is the clarity it provides that merely minimising or resolving negative physical or mental states does not necessarily result in positive welfare, but may only provide, at best, a neutral state.
To have good welfare, animals need more than this.
To help ensure animals have a ‘life worth living’, they must have the opportunity to have positive experiences such as anticipation, satisfaction and satiation.
To enable this, those responsible for the care of animals need to provide them with environments that not only allow but encourage animals to express behaviours that are rewarding.
This shift in understanding is the basis for the Five Domains model incorporating positive welfare states.
|1. From hunger and thirst (by providing access to fresh water and a balanced diet to maintain full health)
|1. Nutrition (Animals must have access to suitable quantities of a balanced diet of a variety of nutritious foods and water for optimal health)
|2. From discomfort (by providing a safe environment, shelter and a comfortable resting place)
|2. Environment (Animals must have safe, ample space with suitable temperature, air flow, light and protection from noise for optimal health)
|3. From pain, injury and disease (through prevention, rapid diagnosis and treatment)
|3. Health (Animals must be treated for disease, injury or functional impairment to maintain an appropriate body condition and good fitness)
|4. To express normal behaviour (by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind)
|4. Behaviour (Animals must be provided with opportunities to engage in play, explore, move, bond and interact with others of their species, and have suitable space to retreat and sleep)
|5. From fear and distress (by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering)
|5. Mental state (An animal’s overall welfare is directly affected by factors of nutrition, environment, health and behaviour, which all impact on the mental health of animals)
Thus, the Five Domains provide a means of evaluating the welfare of an individual or group of animals in a particular situation, with a strong focus on mental well-being and positive experiences.
The Five Domains also allow thinking to be extended beyond the Five Freedoms – to place even greater emphasis on providing opportunities for animals to be exposed to or engage in activities that provide positive experiences.
According to Assoc Prof Pairis-Garcia, Tyson Foods announced last year that it would transition to the Five Domains model and it appeared that other food companies were considering a similar shift.
“We must wait to see if the long-standing Five Freedoms remains the foundational piece in which animal welfare policy, legislation and education rely on or if a change to a new approach such as the Five Domains is upon us,” she concluded.
Tyson Foods Inc is an American multinational corporation based in Springdale, Arkansas, that operates in the food industry.
The company is the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork after JBS SA.
Tyson Foods Australia operates a food processing facility in Coominya in Queensland, manufacturing beef products for the Australian and export markets.