By Dr Clive Dalton
Your legal responsibilities
- If you keep sheep you are bound by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The details of good practice under this law are set out in a number of animal welfare codes that you should be aware of. See further reading.
The Five Freedoms
This is the main principle behind the Animal Welfare Act as the person responsible for the care of an animal is legally bound to provide it with “The Five Freedoms”. These are:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
- Freedom to express “normal” behaviour.
- To really understand the 5th freedom, you have to think of mankind and the sheep writing a contract – what the late Dr Ron Kilgour called 'the Domestic Contract'.
- The goat cannot negotiate its side of the contract so man has to do it for the goat as well as his own. So when you look at some of today’s goat husbandry practices, you may rightly question if the goat got a fair deal.
- We must constantly be checking and updating this agreement with the goat to make sure that both man and the goat end up with a reasonable compromise. It can only ever be a compromise. It’s up to the human to make sure it’s a fair one.
- So on the farm – remember your goats are legally entitled to the 5 Freedoms and failing to provide these can result in large fines and imprisonment.
- We really have to take this seriously because as an exporting country, our competitors are watching us all the time, hoping an issue will arise that they can exploit and restrict or stop our trade.
- To our “clean and green” image we must now add the word “humane” and show the world that this is our business and not just public relations spin.