The five freedoms

calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 3 minute read
  • Freedom from hunger and thirst - Ready access to fresh water and a balanced ration which maintains full health and vigour.
  • Freedom from discomfort - Provision of a suitable environment and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease - Prevention where possible and prompt diagnosis and treatment when injuries or disease occur.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour - Provision of sufficient and appropriate space, interest and the company of other pigs.
  • Freedom from fear and distress - Sympathetic stockmanship, constant environmental conditions and freedom from aggression by other pigs.

These represent the ideal which can rarely be achieved fully within the practical constraints of an efficient pig farm. Nevertheless they provide a comprehensive starting point from which to assess your own pig farm.

Freedom to express normal behaviour

This is the most difficult one to provide on intensive units. It is also the most controversial, beset by strong emotional and anthropomorphic opinions. It implies freedom of movement, so that all pigs should be able to turn round and carry out their normal bodily functions. This is a contentious issue with respect to the confinement of sows in stalls or tether systems. In the UK dry sow stalls (confinement) and tethers were made illegal from 1 January 1999. Some other countries within the EU have followed this lead by the Council Directive 91/630/EEC. This directive stated that no new sow tethers or conversions to sow tethers should be constructed from the 31 December 1995 but those already in use permitted for use until the year 2005. Council Directive 91/630/EEC was reviewed by the EU in 1997. Individual pig farmers in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, who sell pork products into the UK, have phased out sow stalls and tethers so that their products remain acceptable to UK supermarkets.

Changing from stalls and tethers to loose housing replaces one set of welfare problems with another, particularly in relation to individual sow feed rationing and aggression. Good pen or yard design is required combined with skilled stockmanship if freedom from fear, distress, pain and injury are to be achieved. Housing must be such that animals can stand and lie down without difficulty, have a clean place in which to rest and have visual contact with other pigs.

Other aspects which are not spelt out by the 5 freedoms but which may be implied by them are:

  • The provision of a caring and knowledgeable management team.
  • The provision of light during the hours of daylight.
  • The avoidance of unnecessary mutilation.
  • The provision of emergency arrangements to cover disasters such as fire, the breakdown of mechanical services and the disruption of supplies.
  • Humane slaughter.

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