Animal Machine and Silent Spring. 50 Years Later


In 1964 Ruth Harrison’s book ‘Animal Machine’ detailed the practices involved in industrial farming; the book was serialized in The Observer keeping the issue fresh in the public mind. The outcry by the British public forced the government to appoint a committee to look into the welfare of farm animals. The 85 page “Report of the Technical Committee to Enquire into the Welfare of Animals kept under Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems;” chaired by Professor Roger Brambell, became known as the Brambell Report.

Brambell’s report stated that animals should have the freedom “to stand up, lie down, turn around, groom themselves and stretch their limbs,” the original ‘five freedoms.”  These freedoms would later be formalized into the list below and expanded to include pets.

The Five Freedoms

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 or 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.

Interestingly, two years earlier (1962) Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ was serialized in The New Yorker and it too would waken public consciousness to environmental issues.

This week (March 12-13) Oxford University will be hosting a conference on both women.