What does good animal welfare look like? Part Two
In Part One, Drs. Sara Steinlage, Chief Veterinary Officer, and Michelle Calvo-Lorenzo, Technical Consultant, discussed the principles and moral obligations that animal caregivers adhere to for good animal welfare, which are commonly known as the “Five Freedoms” and define ideal states of welfare. We discussed the first three Freedoms in part one, and here we explain the final two Freedoms.

4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior

We want to provide animals with an environment that enables them to exhibit species-specific behaviors as they would in their natural environment. This could mean providing them with adequate space to socialize and be raised in the appropriate company of an animal’s own kind. For instance, open pens can be used to allow livestock to be housed with other animals naturally found in their flock or herd. Their caretakers closely monitor the animals’ behavioral interactions to ensure they are all properly cared for within their environment.

5. Freedom from Fear and Distress

We must care for the animals’ mental well-being as well as their physical well-being by creating an environment where animals can feel safe and secure. The human-animal interaction is important in achieving this ideal state of welfare, so farm workers must be properly trained to promote positive interactions and experiences when working with their animals. This means caregivers must reduce stress and fear when interacting with livestock, such as when feeding them, moving them, vaccinating or treating them when they are sick, transporting them, or during humane slaughter. It is also important that animal caregivers are trained to understand species-specific behaviors to better understand and prepare for how animals may react in different situations.

Michelle writes, through work functions or in casual conversations, I discuss these Freedoms with people who didn’t grow up on a farm—those city folks like me. I encourage them to connect with livestock farmers and veterinarians so they can witness first-hand the good treatment farm caregivers provide the animals they look after.

The first time I set foot on a farm, it was on a dairy and a day I’ll never forget, Michelle writes. I saw with my own eyes how animal welfare science and veterinary medicine has provided knowledge and practices that enable animals with very specific needs and behaviors to thrive and live a good life. Farm workers toiled every day in harsh weather conditions and over long hours to ensure all their animals received the attention they needed. Despite the tough outdoor conditions, they were so passionate about caring for their animals.

Having open conversations with people inside and outside the agricultural industry will help ensure the ethical and scientific components of livestock welfare evolves and continuously improves. Livestock provide us with nutritious food, enriched livelihoods, and help us raise healthy families. It is our moral obligation as caregivers to provide them with a high quality life.

The next time you have the opportunity to engage with a farmer or a veterinarian, ask them how they care for their animals and what good animal welfare looks like to them.

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