WSPA believes that:
- Animals have biologically determined instincts, interests and natures, and can experience pain and suffering.
- Each individual animal has intrinsic value, and that it is the responsibility of humans to ensure that their welfare is respected and protected.
- Animals should live their lives free from avoidable suffering at the hands of humans, rather than be used inhumanely as ‘raw materials’ for the benefit of mankind.
WSPA insists that all animals owned by or under the care of humans should be kept in conditions appropriate to the needs of the species. Where the physiological and behavioural needs of a species cannot be met, the animals should not be captive.
The key difference between animal conservation and animal welfare is that conservation focuses on species, populations and habitats, whereas welfare focuses on the individual animal.
Animal welfare is defined by both the physical and psychological state of an animal and the conditions in which it lives.
The welfare of an animal can be described as good if the individual is fit, healthy and free from suffering.
WSPA assesses the welfare of animals using the Five Freedoms (Farm Animal Welfare Council, 2003):
- Freedom from hunger and thirst.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
- Freedom to express normal behaviour.
These represent a useful ‘checklist’ to quickly identify situations which compromise good animal welfare – that is, any situation that causes fear, pain, discomfort, injury, disease or behavioural distress.
Methods of killing animals are critical as the process can often cause extreme pain and distress before death occurs. WSPA advocates humane slaughter methods.