In my post Toward An Equine Bill of Rights, I asked if anyone had thoughts on what might comprise an acceptable enough standard of horse care to be called an Equine Bill of Rights.
Either no one read it, no one thought it was worth commenting on, or no one had any ideas. In lieu of interpreting silence as indifference, I’m assuming it was too big a ball of wax.
I was greatly encouraged today when I discovered a kindred spirit in Ethical Horsemanship, who speaks of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare as they might apply to competition horses. I wonder if these Five Freedoms were based upon Norman Rockwell’s famous Four Freedoms paintings which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on February 20, 1943. (Lucky for me, in spite of an unhappily-upcoming birthday) I wasn’t around then, but those photos never fail to arouse a feeling of gratitude tinged with sadness. Particularly poignant is Freedom From Fear, which affected me deeply long before I even had a child I could not protect from pain.
(click on each photo for a much larger version)
If it was an intentional nod to the (sentimental) brilliance of Rockwell, The Farm Animal Welfare Council chose a solid platform to build their Five Freedoms on. If we love our animals, why not ensure that they enjoy the same benefits of living in the modern that we hope to provide for our loved ones? After all, when we assume the stewardship of an animal, we also take on the responsibility of treating it humanely. But I don’t want to limit this discussion to what is humane treatment and what is not. That’s a different ball of wax. There’s a lot of wax in this post, isn’t there?
The Farm Animal Welfare Council says nothing of Norman Rockwell on its web page. It’s probably just more anthropomorphizing on my part to make such a sentimental connection. Here’s what they have to say about the origins of the Five Freedoms:
The concept of Five Freedoms originated with the Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, the Brambell Report, December 1965 (HMSO London, ISBN 0 10 850286 4). This stated that farm animals should have freedom “to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs,” a list that is still sometimes referred to as Brambell’s Five Freedoms.
Clearly, this initial list might constitute humane treatment, but you’d have to go a long way before it gets close to freedom, or even a Bill of Rights. They went further:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – 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.
For a good look at whether competition horses might enjoy these freedoms, visit Ethical Horsemanship. It’s a good post. And the U.K. has made a good start. To see what kind of start the U.S. has made, start at the National Agriculture Library of the Animal Welfare Information Center.
There is enough material floating around out there to come up with a first draft of an Equine Bill of Rights without breaking a sweat. What do you think?
(and I didn’t even mention wax!)
Many many thanks to Ethical Horsemanship for taking this topic up and kicking me in the pants with a great post.