This opinion paper considers the relative validity and utility of three concepts: the Five Freedoms (FF), Five Domains (FD) and Quality of Life (QoL) as tools for the analysis of animal welfare. The aims of FF and FD are different but complementary. FD seeks to assess the impact of the physical and social environment on the mental (affective) state of a sentient animal, FF is an outcome-based approach to identify and evaluate the efficacy of specific actions necessary to promote well-being. Both have utility. The concept of QoL is presented mainly as a motivational framework. The FD approach provides an effective foundation for research and evidence-based conclusions as to the impact of the things we do on the mental state of the animals in our care. Moreover, it is one that can evolve with time. The FF are much simpler. They do not attempt to achieve an overall picture of mental state and welfare status, but the principles upon which they are based are timeless. Their aim is to be no more than a memorable set of signposts to right action. Since, so far as the animals are concerned, it is not what we think but what we do that counts, I suggest that they are likely to have a more general impact.
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