The idea of freedom is essentially misconstrued as human and often restricted to how humans perceive it. Hence, the need for freedom of other living beings is not given as much importance as it should be. However, with changing times, the laws, policies and society in general have started to make a shift from an anthropocentric approach to an ecocentric approach.
People are becoming more aware of their responsibilities towards nature, environment, animals and other elements, which complete our lives as humans on this planet. We, as humans, owe our duty towards all other components of nature for a sustainable living. In light of this, it is important to understand the internationally recognised Five Freedoms that are guaranteed to animals, which can help us achieve a better life for them.
Established in the year 1924 under the name of Office International des Epizooties (OIE), the World Organization for Animal Health (renamed so in 2003) is the only international organisation, which deals with animal welfare. Based in Paris, the OIE is a reference organisation of the World Trade Organisation and functions under the aegis of the United Nations. Working for more than 90 years now, it has assumed the role of a guardian of animal welfare in the absence of any other international organisation of the same level.
The OIE lays down the following ‘Five Freedoms’ of animals, which are recognised globally:
- FREEDOM FROM HUNGER, THIRST AND MALNUTRITION
This implies that any person in charge of an animal, whether by way of ownership or possession or as a caretaker, must provide the animal with access to fresh water, proper food and healthy diet to maintain its health and strength.”
- FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISTRESS
This means ensuring conditions of care and treatment, which would keep them away from mental suffering and trauma.
- FREEDOM FROM PHYSICAL AND THERMAL DISCOMFORT”
This implies that the animal should be provided with proper shelter, including resting area, with adequate space according to the size of the animal, to ensure that its natural free movement is not constrained. This is applicable not just during stationary accommodation of an animal but also during transportation of animals from one place to another whether by air, land or sea, to make sure that they are not cramped into small spaces in numbers more than what can ideally hold them. In addition to physical comfort, it is also important to provide them with thermal comfort, such as providing with shade during scorching heat, shelter during torrential rains and warmth during chilly winters.
- FREEDOM FROM PAIN, INJURY AND DISEASE”
This requires frequent diagnosis and treatment of animals from various diseases. Further, they should not be subjected to unnecessary pain, and more so, should not be left unattended when they are injured and suffering.
- FREEDOM TO EXPRESS NORMAL PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR
This can be ensured by providing animals with an environment closest to their natural behavioural patterns, instead of coercing them into activities or surroundings whereby they are forced to behave in a manner against their natural instincts.
These five freedoms have not only been recognised globally, in several foreign jurisdictions, but also by the Supreme Court of India, to reinstate its value in animal welfare. Each of these freedoms is fundamental and intrinsic to life of all animals – whether domestic, agrarian, commercial or otherwise.
As humans, we vehemently try to implement our rights and freedom. If the same sentiment can be mirrored towards animals, in achieving these basic Five Freedoms, by making more people aware of these, practice them as well as encourage others to do so, it can prove to be a small step towards a big change in the lives of the voiceless.
(Dr Sohini Mahapatra is a Faculty of Law at National Law University Odisha, Cuttack)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily represent that of the website)