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Horse and donkey welfare - the five domains (domains)

Written by < span style="color: textColor5;">Tal Nelkan - Graduated with a bachelor's degree in life sciences, a master's student in mathematics and a certified riding instructor. (tal.nelken@mail.


Before the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, we used to go out to hang out, meet friends and family, go to events, travel and more. But in recent times there were many restrictions that prevented us from doing so and many found themselves more lonely, bored, frustrated and even experiencing depression. The conditions that limit the social and leisure events in our lives affect our well-being, as does keeping animals in conditions that do not allow them enriching and satisfying experiences may cause them to experience loneliness, boredom, frustration and depression.

In the first article in the series we described the The Five Freedoms Principles for ensuring the welfare of animals:

1) Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition

2) Freedom from discomfort and exposure to the weather

3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease

4) Freedom from fear and distress

5) Freedom to express normal behavior

We explained the problematic of using the word 'freedom'. And that the freedoms refer mainly to reducing the hardships of survival, but they do not necessarily guarantee a 'good' life, which includes positive and enriching experiences.

Therefore, researchers Mellor and Reid (Mellor & Reid) compiled a new list of 5 principles

The five domains, for the well-being of animals:

These principles emphasize more the importance of the behavior, including interaction with humans, and the emotional/mental state of the animals compared to the five freedoms approach. In addition, they emphasize that the absence of suffering from a negative experience does not necessarily equate to a positive experience. The purpose of the model is to enable a systematic, structured, and thorough framework to assess the welfare of the animal. The purpose of each space is to direct attention to the areas that are most relevant for the purpose of assessing the welfare of animals.

Spaces 1-3 which refer to nutrition, environment and health, are associated with the field of survival. Negative experience and distress associated with these spaces can be measured physiologically, pathologically, etc. For example, a disease can be characterized by measuring temperature, pulse and blood pressure, testing blood, urine and feces, and more. As mentioned, the feeling of distress in one of these spaces can result from a survival genetic mechanism that causes appropriate behavior on the part of the animal, and allows it to survive the negative situation it finds itself in.

Space 4 which refers to the behavioral interactions, emphasizes the importance of the animal's behavior as a measure of how it perceives its environment. This space emphasizes proactive behaviors, which require flexibility in response to a changing environment and (often unexpected) events that occur in its environment. When the animals participate in voluntary, proactive and goal-oriented behaviors, one can clearly see the exercise of initiative in contrast to the survival behaviors resulting from distress in spaces 1-3.

Behavioral interactions can be divided into three main types, which we will expand on in the next article in the series:

  1. With the environment (alone)

  2. with other animals

  3. With humans

Space 5 refers to the mental and emotional perception of the animal, as the integration of all the other spaces for their effect on the general state of well-being.

In conclusion, the Five Spaces Model is an up-to-date model for animal welfare, which emphasizes not only the importance of physical well-being, but also the importance of the animals' behavior and emotional and mental state. This approach is consistent with the conclusions of the latest biological studies related to animal welfare. It is possible to adopt from the "five spaces" model Guidelines for raising animals under conditions that allow them a good quality of life, and we will expand on this and more in the next article.



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