We know a lot about what kind of food, water, exercise, and veterinary care animals need to grow well and be healthy. What does an animal need to be happy?
The animal welfare movement has been thinking about animals’ mental welfare at least since the 1960s. That’s when the British government commissioned the Brambell Report on intensive animal production. Intensive animal production means very big farms raising large numbers of animals for slaughter or egg production in very small spaces compared to traditional farms. The Brambell committee listed the five freedoms animals should have. The first three freedoms are about physical welfare, and the last two are about mental welfare:
freedom from hunger and thirst
freedom from discomfort
freedom from pain, injury, or disease
freedom to express normal behavior
freedom from fear and distress
Freedom is a confusing guide for people trying to give animals a good life. Even freedom from fear, which sounds straightforward, isn’t simple or obvious. For example, zookeepers and farmers usually assume that as long as a prey species animal doesn’t have any predators around, it can’t be afraid. But that’s not the way fear works inside the brain. If you felt fear only when you are face-to-face with the animal that’s going to kill you and eat you, that would be too late. Prey species animals feel afraid when they’re out in the open and exposed to potential predators. For example, a hen has to have a place to hide when she lays her eggs. It doesn’t matter that she’s laying her eggs on a commercial farm inside a barn that no fox will ever get into. The hen has evolved to hide when she lays her eggs. Hiding is what gives her freedom from fear, not living in a barn that keeps the foxes out.
Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals
by Dr. Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson