Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 959–975 | Cite as

A Critique of FAWC’s Five Freedoms as a Framework for the Analysis of Animal Welfare

  • Steven P. McCullochEmail author


The Brambell Report of 1965 recommended that animals should have the freedom to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) developed these into the Five Freedoms, which are a framework for the analysis of animal welfare. The Five Freedoms are well known in farming, policy making and academic circles. They form the basis of much animal welfare legislation, codes of recommendations and farm animal welfare accreditation schemes, and are the foundation of the Welfare Quality® assessment scheme. The Five Freedoms are also extensively employed for the education of veterinary and animal welfare science students. Hence they have proven to be of great practical utility. In this paper, the Five Freedoms framework is examined in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions for the analysis of animal welfare. Overall, the Five Freedoms are judged to be individually necessary and jointly sufficient as a framework for the analysis of animal welfare. FAWC has recently criticized the Five Freedoms for concentrating on negative aspects of welfare. However, it is shown here how the satisfaction of the Five Freedoms should lead to good welfare, from the animal’s point of view. The Five Freedoms are formulated as ideals of animal welfare. This has significant advantages that have likely contributed to their impact. However, the ideality of the Five Freedoms means that the framework is without power to determine what a satisfactory level of animal welfare is, in an ethical sense.


Animal welfare Critical analysis Farm Animal Welfare Council Five freedoms Ideality 



The author is grateful to Christopher Wathes, Michael Reiss, John Webster and four anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks are also due to the Royal Veterinary College for funding towards this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Animal WelfareThe Royal Veterinary College, University of LondonHatfieldUK

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