Freedoms, Provisions, and Aims: Improving Conceptual Frameworks for Zoo Animal Welfare
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2017
Monica List1, MV, Mag B; Sally A. Nofs2, DVM
1Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA; 2Potter Park Zoo, Lansing, MI, USA


The Five Freedoms have been widely used as a guiding framework for animal welfare in many species, including zoo animals. This framework presents a list of broad ideals, rather than specific requirements with regard to the physical and emotional wellbeing of animals.2 Furthermore, despite being phrased as categorical statements, it is generally understood that in most cases, these freedoms can only be relatively fulfilled. As such, the Five Freedoms often fail to provide concrete guidance regarding the definition and assessment of welfare. Mellor (2016) has approached this shortcoming by proposing that the Five Freedoms be re-conceptualized as provisions and aims within the broader concept of quality of life, which results in more effective definitions and assessment of welfare in practice.4 The proposal presented in this paper constitutes an adaptation of Mellor’s framework, specifically for the assessment of zoo animal welfare. The adapted proposal identifies special considerations for zoo animals, including: methodologic constraints on collecting data to support evidence-based welfare decisions, individual and species-specific behavioral variation, a focus on choice and control as strategies to achieve positive affective states, and adequately assessing the impact of human-animal interactions on overall welfare outcomes.1,3-5 Two hypothetical case scenarios are discussed in order to illustrate the applicability of the framework. A potential goal of the adapted framework is to assist institutional animal welfare committees in establishing welfare priorities for animals in their care.

Literature Cited

1.  Carlstead K, Mench JA, Meehan C, Brown JL. An epidemiological approach to welfare research in zoos: the elephant welfare project. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2013;16(4):319–337.

2.  Five Freedoms [Internet]. Farm Animal Welfare Council, the National Archives; 2012 [cited 2017 March 03]. Available from

3.  Hill SP, Broom DM. Measuring zoo animal welfare: theory and practice. Zoo Biol. 2009;28(6):531–544.

4.  Mellor DJ. Updating animal welfare thinking: moving beyond the “Five Freedoms” towards “a life worth living.” Animals. 2016;6(3):1–21.

5.  Whitham JC, Wielebnowski N. New directions for zoo animal welfare science. Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2013;147(3):247–260.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Monica List, MV, Mag B
Department of Philosophy
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI, USA

MAIN : Behavior & Welfare : Improving Conceptual Frameworks for Zoo Animal Welfare
Powered By VIN