Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms were created in the UK by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979 in response to large scale, industrial farms. They now form the basis of much animal welfare legislation in the UK, as well as the European Union’s policy on farm animal welfare.

Freedom from Hunger and Thirst

through ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

Freedom from Discomfort

by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease

by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour

by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

Freedom from Fear and Distress

by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Five Freedoms in Hong Kong

We believe the Five Freedoms form a logical and comprehensive framework for animal welfare and can be easily applied to all animals in Hong Kong. Below are some of the challenges we face in the territory.

Freedom from Hunger

Although some of the fresh meat and poultry offered for sale in Hong Kong is from animals reared locally, the bulk comes from live animals imported into Hong Kong, mostly from China. Many of these – pigs, goats, cattle and poultry – are transported long distances with limited provision for food and water. This can easily lead to hunger, dehydration and distress. To combat this, cattle are sometimes “force fed” water by having a hose passed down their oesophagus and into the stomach, causing obvious discomfort and suffering.

Freedom from Discomfort

Many of the food animals in Hong Kong spend their lives in conditions which cause obvious discomfort. This ranges from fish in wet markets or restaurants kept in shallow tanks to pigs being reared in conditions with no bedding and poor ventilation. Often, only small changes need to be made to alleviate a great deal of their suffering.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease

Chickens raised for meat are intensively reared, kept in sheds often containing several thousand animals. Dirty litter and poor ventilation leads to burns on the bird’s hocks and respiratory diseases. They also grow three or four times quicker than other chickens, sometimes reaching slaughter weight in just six weeks. This can lead to all sorts of complications including fractures caused by bones unable to hold up their weight.

Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour

The intensive rearing of food animals in abnormally large groups or in very cramped and often barren conditions, removes the freedom of animals to perform much of their normal behaviour. Breeding sows, for example, are often kept either tethered or in very small stalls without enough room to turn around. These approaches deny animals the opportunity to display even the most basic of behaviours and often create abnormal behaviours, such as cannibalism and aggression. To prevent this from happening, many animals face mutilations such as beak trimming and tail docking – both usually carried out without anaesthesia.

Freedom from Fear & Distress

A large portion of the poultry and fish consumed every day in Hong Kong is purchased in wet markets. In most cases live animals are killed as they are purchased. Almost without exception, poultry in Hong Kong wet markets are slaughtered by having their throats cut and bleed to death while fully conscious. This causes considerable fear and distress and the SPCA firmly believes that all animals should be rendered unconscious before slaughter to prevent this degree of suffering.