What does animal welfare mean?

The term 'animal welfare' can be seen as a juridical, aesthetical, ethical and biological point of view. In the context of the IAF the biological aspect has to be discussed especially, because there are no biological differences between the hawking birds and their prey, irrespective of the cultural or legal background of the falconer.

Two concepts out of many must be specifically addressed:
Meet Demands and Avoid Damage Concept and Concept of the Five Freedoms


Meet Demands and Avoid Damage Concept

This concept wbrokenTail2-264x174as elaborated by a group of Swiss and German ethologists (the ethological working group of the German Veterinarian Society, Tschanz et. al., 1987) and was first published in 1987. At present it is the most often used method in to decide whether a certain phenomenon has animal welfare relevance or not.

The concept of Meet Demands and Avoid Damage arises from the assumption that every organism is capable of self-creation and self-maintenance. Whether an animal can manage self-creation and self maintenance sufficiently can only be evaluated if the animal is able to fulfil its demands and to preserve itself from damage. The animal uses for these aims its physiological, morphological and ethological equipment acquired by evolution and by individual ontogenesis. With this equipment animals use or avoid structures and conditions in their environment (if an animal is kept in captivity, the structures and conditions are then ruled by men).

If the adaptability of an animal is overstretched, physiological, morphological and/or ethological damage will occur. Physical damage can be easily seen, even without knowledge about that animal species, and there is no dispute about any relevance the injury has to the welfare of the animal. Ethological damage will be recognized as disturbed behaviour, like stereotypes.

This is most often not so easy to detect, and there is much more discussion as to whether disturbed behavior does really indicate poor welfare. The concept of Meet Demands and Avoid Damage claims if there is a significant amount of injured or damaged individuals correlating to a certain keeping or managing system, this system will be recognized as not compatible with the approach of animal welfare. For this judgment the seriousness of the damage is to be taken in consideration as well.


The concept of the Five Freedoms was founded by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979. It focusses on farm animals, which are all social animals, a behavioural pattern that birds of prey do not share. Birds of prey live facultative, mostly solitary lives. Because of this, companionship of the animal’s own kind is not crucial like it would be in herd or flocking animals.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

2. Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease: by prevention through rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

All concepts are covered for falconer’s birds completely – with the exception of companionship as mentioned above.