The Five Freedoms

To you and I it is probably obvious. We have a cat or dog or some more exotic 'pet' at home. We care for it. It is our responsibility. The caring means that we want that animal to be both happy and healthy. Even if you don't accept the anthropomorphisms it is in your interest to have a trouble free animal.

Few think beyond the 'pet' concept but all animals deserve consideration whether they are in the home, the yard, the farm, the zoo, the laboratory, the pet shop, the shopping mall or, to a degree, in the wild. As civilised people we should/must give consideration and respect to those creatures with whom we share our planet.

It really doesn't matter what your culture is or how you were educated or even what is the accepted norm is in your country. If the manner in which you treat your animals is wrong it is wrong no matter how you try to excuse it. Wrong as it may be it is a problem that needs addressing through education and regulation plus just a bit of condemnation to get things moving.

The Five Freedoms are logical, they are common sense and they should be what you use to gauge the quality of care and professionalism in a zoo, a farm or wherever animals are kept. It does not matter if the animals are being bred for sale or slaughter they both need and deserve to have needs met at all times.

Animal Enrichment At The Oregon Zoo

The Five Freedoms

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour
  5. Freedom from fear and distress 

Denver Zoo Animal Enrichment

Freedom from hunger and thirst

It really is obvious isn't it? Nobody wants to be hungry or underfed or to worry if there will be food that day. When you want a drink you want access to clean drinking water available. Drinking water should be freely available to all animals at all times. 

Animal Enrichment 2008

Freedom from discomfort

Discomfort covers a multitude of sins. No animal wants to feel the cold or to have the sun beating down on it relentlessly. It wants somewhere to retreat to, a place to rest in comfort.

Comfort is widely neglected throughout Asia where the Evil Philippine Dog Cage is almost a standard for dogs in pet shops and at home. Sadly because these cages are believed to be okay for dogs the torture is applied to other animals too. These cages are uncomfortable for a dog to live in. The wire bottoms causes pain to their feet ALL of the time. They are unnatural and cruel.

Animal Enrichment at the Oakland Zoo

Freedom from pain, injury and disease

Nobody wants to be sick or to be injured or feel pain. Animals are no different to you or I. We are supposed to be the intelligent ones, the 'thinking animals'. We have to ensure that animals under our care are not exposed to injury, disease or pain. A preventative medicine policy which includes vaccination and parasite control should be in place.

Animals mask pain and disease but professional knowledgeable staff see through that mask.

Animal Enrichment Workshops at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park

Freedom to express normal behaviour

A cramped cage will not allow normal behaviour to be expressed so available space is a consideration always bearing in mind that if you consider territory that quality of space is more important than quantity. A mate, or companionship of animals of the same species are important and particularily within a breeding programme.

A well thought out and managed enrichment programme needs to be in place and religiously adhered to.

Animal Enrichment at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Freedom from fear and distress

Within a zoo setting both fear and stress can be eliminated by cage structure and design. The comfort zone or flight distance is well known for many species. Animal enclosures should be big enough or so designed to allow animals to get away. They don't want the distress of disturbance whilst mating, sleeping or delivering, rearing or nursing young. Mental abuse is as bad as physical abuse.


Five very simple points. Easy to remember, easy to consider. The Freedoms overlap a little but that is natural and it is nature that in many ways we are trying to imitate.

If you believe your zoo or petshop is missing the point. Please send them the link to this hub.

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Comments 24 comments

bingskee profile image

bingskee 7 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

the five freedoms. it especially applies to the homo sapiens.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

You are right bingskee it surely does but as humans (most of us anyway) we have the freedom to run away, to speak and complain, divorce and much more. Animals are 'trapped' within the limitations their owners care to give.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Peter Dickinson, I am glad you wrote this hub to express what most people feel about animal rights in captivity, and specifically what zoo people believe. Interestingly enough, these same rights that you list are rights that human rights activists are seeking to claim for human beings the world over. I'll copy your list here again:

The Five Freedoms

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

2. Freedom from discomfort

3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour

5. Freedom from fear and distress

These are perhaps the rights that prisoners should have or the rights that should be accorded to slaves. They are, however, not rights that free men or free animals have.

In nature or in the free economy, we have to face hunger and thirst and to find ways to satisfy them ourselves. In nature or in the free economy, we are not free from fear or discomfort, but we are free to find a way to alleviate them.

I would love to see more animals (including humans) given the dignity and freedom of providing for themselves.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you Aya Katz - The Five Freedoms from an animal point of view made their first appearance about 30 years ago. I wonder if the 'human rights' were borrowed from the animal rights or whether the human rights were enshrined in all our great political documents and just ignored.

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

You could not have put it better, Peter. I'm in total disagreement. As always, your compassion for animals shines through here. Thank you.

i scribble profile image

i scribble 7 years ago

I like this Hub on the needs and rights of animals. Who came up with these 5 essential freedoms. Do they come from the zoo community? Although most Americans and maybe Western Europe, Canadians,etc. would say our pets are part of the family, I think we still have a ways to go on quality of life issues. I still see dogs on chains, and many backyard dogs who get little attention beyond being fed. Even when the '5 freedoms' are respected, I think so many pets are lonesome and bored. I love the enrichment program idea for zoo animals and think pets need enrichment programs at home as well.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

i scribble - I daresay the 5 freedoms were a human issue before they ever became an animal one. Certainly they were recognised by animal groups thirty years ago. They are a big subject from the point of view of both culture and religion. Different nationalities see things differently. People in my little corner of Thailand used to look at me very oddly when I rescued frogs and toads from the road, talked to cats and befriended the street dogs. Now if there is an animal 'problem' they call me instead of killing first. Mind you I notice they are all becoming kinder to animals. Some always were of course but others I have given them cause to think.

I will admit though to having closed my eyes to some terrible sights while I have been travelling. Sometimes it is just not possible to do anything. I have seen people suffering, dying, even dead (which is a blessing) in the streets and, sorry as I am, it is the animals I have most sympathy more.

DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

DRG Da Real Grinc 7 years ago from All over the USA

Great article and videos. I learned.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thank you - DRG Da Real Grinc. I am pleased.

topgunjager profile image

topgunjager 7 years ago from Sunnyvale, CA

Sad how they treat dogs in the Philippines. The evil dog cage that you metioned is not really that common. Dogs in the Philippines are tied with chains around their neck in front or at the back of the house and are almost never given baths and I think it's safe to say that 100% of them are flea infested, it sucks.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia Author

topgunjager - The people I have met that treat dogs with the most kindness and love in the Philippines are the people who eat them.

topgunjager profile image

topgunjager 7 years ago from Sunnyvale, CA

they'll eat them regardless how they treat them.

Lexi 7 years ago

The Five Freedoms originated from the Farm Animal Welfare Council in the UK around 30 years ago in response to the ever increasing intensity of animal production for food. Nowadays they are applied to most animals kept in captivity. Great article, I especially like the enrichment vids!

Jenny-Anne 6 years ago

Hi Peter - great going with the five feedoms - a really useful summary for wildlife! I like the team building enrichment idea too. It would be a fun way for kids to learn about wild behaviour. Would you mind if I posted this link on the Irish Seal Sanctuary facebook page?

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Thanks Jenny-Anne, I would be delighted to have a link from the Irish Seal Sanctuary Facebook Page.

Jenny-Anne 6 years ago

done! thanks.

Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Peter, another great hub. As always I enjoyed reading it.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia Author

Granny's House - Thank you for stopping by.

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI

Wonderful and touching hub.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

crazybeanrider - Thank you. I wish more people would read it.

ttrash profile image

ttrash 5 years ago from Australia

During animal handling lessons, I've picked up a sixth freedom; that is freedom from uneducated handlers!

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia Author

ttrash - Ha Ha.....but I know exactly what you meaN. tAKE CARE.

Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

Dubuquedogtrainer 4 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

Voted up - good hub!

Ed Cummings profile image

Ed Cummings 2 years ago

Hi everyone- To follow on from Lexi's comment And here is a bit on human rights- Its my first time commenting on here, not sure if its important but I am an animal science graduate from the UK.

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