Freedom and Animal Welfare.
Animals 2021,11: 1148.
There is an ongoing debate on the ethics of keeping animals in captivity and particularly as to whether freedom matters to their welfare. Freedom is a continuum, and zoo animals are provided with some freedoms that wild animals are not (such as freedom from hungeror disease) but may also lack some freedoms (such as behavioural choice). In this paper, we look at how freedom may benefit animal welfare by allowing them access to the resources they need, as well as through the additional value of a free life itself. In the end, we call for more scientific work on comparisons between the welfare of captive and wild animals, as we cannot guess what is good for animals without conducting research to find out. Knowing more about the welfare of captive and wild animals and how it relates to the amount of freedom they experience will allow us to discover what is important for animal welfare and make decisions that better reflect the animals’ own point of view.
The keeping of captive animals in zoos and aquariums has long been controversial. Many take freedom to be a crucial part of animal welfare and, on these grounds, criticise all forms of animal captivity as harmful to animal welfare, regardless of their provisions. Here, we analyse what it might mean for freedom to matter to welfare, distinguishing between the role of freedom as an intrinsic good, valued for its own sake and an instrumental good, its value arising from the increased abilityto provide other important resources. Too often, this debate is conducted through trading intuitions about what matters for animals. We argue for the need for the collection of comparative welfare data about wild and captive animals in order to settle the issue. Discovering more about the links between freedom and animal welfare will then allow for more empirically informed ethical decisions regarding captive animals.