Historical overview of the five freedoms
The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to implement laws protecting animals, as far back as 1822. In 1967, the UK government set up the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, following a report by Professor Roger Brambell (Brambell Report -1965) who was commissioned to study the welfare of intensively farmed animals. The interest of the government was spurred in part by concerns raised after the publication in 1966 of “Animal Machines”, a book by Ruth Harrison, in which she exposes the reality behind intensive farming.
This quote epitomizes the struggle to attain generally accepted welfare measures:
“In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.” ― Ruth Harrison (1966)
The advisory committee’s first guidelines recommended that animals require the freedom to “stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs”. How bleak must have conditions been for many animals not too long ago to have prompted such a guideline.
Eventually, the committee which in 1979 became the Farm Animal Welfare Council, developed their guidelines further. We must bear in mind, that the five freedoms are guidelines based on an optimality model, and are as follows:
(1) Freedom from thirst and hunger – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
(2) Freedom from discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
(3) Freedom from pain, injury, and disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
(4) Freedom to express normal behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
(5) Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
Link to the press release of the FAWC guidkines. (PDF of FAWC Guidelines 1979 Press Release)
Taken as guidelines for attaining and maintaining the well-being of animals in domestic or captive situations, they are a huge step forward from previous guidelines as you may have clearly noted.
But there are those that deny emotions in animals other than man, clearly led by a kind of mechanistic world view based on models of Descartian automatons. By the way, mammals are sentient, that is they have emotions and possess consciousness. In fact, all vertebrates and some invertebrates (cephalopods and crustaceans) are sentient, feel pain, experience distress and suffering.
Just this year at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference, Cambridge, UK, July 2012, a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists made the following joint declaration:
“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. 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.” (Emphasis mine) The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (PDF) concluded the undeniable accumulation of scientific evidence supporting “that all mammals, birds and many other animals, have the necessary brain structures that underlie consciousness.”
Useful external links:
Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee
Focus on animal welfare by Caroline J. Hewson
Broom, D. M. (1996). ”Animal welfare defined in terms of attempts to cope with the environment”. Acta agriculturae Scandinavica. Section A, Animal science