‘Sentience’ sometimes refers to the capacity for any type of subjective experience, and sometimes to the capacity to have subjective experiences with a positive or negative valence, such as pain or pleasure. We review recent controversies regarding sentience in fish and invertebrates and consider the deep methodological challenge posed by these cases. We then present two ways of responding to the challenge. In a policy-making context, precautionary thinking can help us treat animals appropriately despite continuing uncertainty about their sentience. In (...) a scientific context, we can draw inspiration from the science of human consciousness to disentangle conscious and unconscious perception (especially vision) in animals. Developing better ways to disentangle conscious and unconscious affect is a key priority for future research. (shrink)
Animal welfare has a long history of disregard. While in recent decades the study of animal welfare has become a scientific discipline of its own, the difficulty of measuring animal welfare can still be vastly underestimated. There are three primary theories, or perspectives, on animal welfare - biological functioning, natural living and affective state. These come with their own diverse methods of measurement, each providing a limited perspective on an aspect of welfare. This paper describes a perspectival pluralist account of (...) animal welfare, in which all three theoretical perspectives and their multiple measures are necessary to understand this complex phenomenon and provide a full picture of animal welfare. This in turn will offer us a better understanding of perspectivism and pluralism itself. (shrink)
This paper addresses what we consider to be the most pressing challenge for the emerging science of consciousness: the measurement problem of consciousness. That is, by what methods can we determine the presence of and properties of consciousness? Most methods are currently developed through evaluation of the presence of consciousness in humans and here we argue that there are particular problems in application of these methods to nonhuman cases—what we call the indicator validity problem and the extrapolation problem. The first (...) is a problem with the application of indicators developed using the differences between conscious and unconscious processing in humans to the identification of other conscious vs. nonconscious organisms or systems. The second is a problem in extrapolating any indicators developed in humans or other organisms to artificial systems. However, while pressing ethical concerns add urgency to the attribution of consciousness and its attendant moral status to nonhuman animals and intelligent machines, we cannot wait for certainty and we advocate the use of a precautionary principle to avoid causing unintentional harm. We also intend that the considerations and limitations discussed in this paper can be used to further analyze and refine the methods of consciousness science with the hope that one day we may be able to solve the measurement problem of consciousness. (shrink)
Animal welfare is a concept that plays a role within both our moral deliberations and the relevant areas of science. The study of animal welfare has impacts on decisions made by legislators, producers and consumers with regards to housing and treatment of animals. Our ethical deliberations in these domains need to consider our impact on animals, and the study of animal welfare provides the information that allows us to make informed decisions. This thesis focusses on taking a philosophical perspective to (...) answer the question of how we can measure the welfare of animals. Animal welfare science is an applied area of biology, aimed at measuring animal welfare. Although philosophy of animal ethics is common, philosophy focussing on animal welfare science is rare. Despite this lack, there are definitely many ways in which philosophical methods can be used to analyse the methodologies and concepts used in this science. One of the aims of the work in this thesis is to remedy this lack of attention in animal welfare. Animal welfare science is a strong emerging discipline, but there is the need for conceptual and methodological clarity and sophistication in this science if it is to play the relevant informative role for our practical and ethical decision-making. There is thus is a strong role here for philosophical analysis for this purpose. The central aim of this thesis is to provide an account of how we can measure subjective animal welfare, addressing some of the potential problems that may arise in this particular scientific endeavour. The two questions I will be answering are: what is animal welfare, and how do we measure it? Part One of the thesis looks at the subjective concept of animal welfare and its applications. In it, I argue for a subjective welfare view - that animal welfare should be understood as the subjective experience of individuals over their lifetimes - and look at how the subjective welfare concept informs our ethical decision-making in two different cases in applied animal ethics. Part Two of the thesis looks more closely at the scientific role of welfare. Understanding welfare subjectively creates unique measurement problems, due to the necessarily private nature of mental states and here I address a few of these problems, including whether subjective experience is measurable, how we might validate indicators of hidden target variables such as welfare, how we can make welfare comparisons between individual animals and how we might compare or integrate the different types of experience that make up welfare. I end with a discussion of the implications of all these problems and solutions for the practice of welfare science, and indicate useful future directions for research. (shrink)
The performance of natural behavior is commonly used as a criterion in the determination of animal welfare. This is still true, despite many authors having demonstrated that it is not a necessary component of welfare – some natural behaviors may decrease welfare, while some unnatural behaviors increase it. Here I analyze why this idea persists, and what effects it may have. I argue that the disagreement underlying this debate on natural behavior is not one about which conditions affect welfare, but (...) a deeper conceptual disagreement about what the state of welfare actually consists of. Those advocating natural behavior typically take a “teleological” view of welfare, in which naturalness is fundamental to welfare, while opponents to the criterion usually take a “subjective” welfare concept, in which welfare consists of the subjective experience of life by the animal. I argue that as natural functioning is neither necessary nor sufficient for understanding welfare, we should move away from the natural behavior criterion to an alternative such as behavioral preferences or enjoyment. This will have effects in the way we understand and measure welfare, and particularly in how we provide for the welfare of animals in a captive setting. (shrink)
What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be sick? These two questions are much closer to one another than has hitherto been acknowledged. Indeed, both raise a number of related, albeit very complex, philosophical problems. In recent years, the phenomenology of health and disease has become a major topic in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine, owing much to the work of Havi Carel (2007, 2011, 2018). Surprisingly little attention, however, has been given to (...) the phenomenology of animal health and suffering. This omission shall be remedied here, laying the groundwork for the phenomenological evaluation of animal health and suffering. (shrink)
This editorial introduces the Journal of Consciousness Studies special issue on "Animal Consciousness". The 15 contributors and co-editors answer the question "How should we study animal consciousness scientifically?" in 500 words or fewer.
Sentience is the capacity to have feelings, such as feelings of pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, warmth, joy, comfort and excitement. It is not simply the capacity to feel pain, but feelings of pain, distress or harm, broadly understood, have a special significance for animal welfare law. Drawing on over 300 scientific studies, we evaluate the evidence of sentience in two groups of invertebrate animals: the cephalopod molluscs or, for short, cephalopods (including octopods, squid and cuttlefish) and the decapod crustaceans or, (...) for short, decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish). We also evaluate the potential welfare implications of current commercial practices involving these animals. (shrink)
There has been much criticism of the idea that Friston's free-energy principle can unite the life and mind sciences. Here, we argue that perhaps the greatest problem for the totalizing ambitions of its proponents is a failure to recognize the importance of evolutionary dynamics and to provide a convincing adaptive story relating free-energy minimization to organismal fitness.
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 (...) ability to 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. (shrink)
One of the primary concerns in animal research is ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals. Modern views on animal welfare emphasize the role of animal sentience, i.e. the capacity to experience subjective states such as pleasure or suffering, as a central component of welfare. The increasing official recognition of animal sentience has had large effects on laboratory animal research. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (Low et al., University of Cambridge, 2012) marked an official scientific recognition of the presence of sentience (...) in mammals, birds, and cephalopods. Animal sentience has furthermore been recognized in legislation in the European Union, UK, New Zealand and parts of Australia, with discussions underway in other parts of the world to follow suit. In this paper, we analyze this shift towards recognition of sentience in the regulation and practice in the treatment of laboratory animals and its effects on animal welfare and use. (shrink)
Mikhalevich & Powell (2020) argue that it is wrong, both scientifically and morally, to dismiss the evidence for sentience in invertebrates. They do not offer any examples, however, of how their welfare should be considered or improved. We draw on animal welfare science to suggest some ways that would not be excessively demanding.
The performance of natural behavior is commonly used as a criterion in the determination of animal welfare. This is still true, despite many authors having demonstrated that it is not a necessary component of welfare –some natural behaviors may decrease welfare, while some unnatural behaviors increase it. Here I analyze why this idea persists, and what effects it may have. I argue that the disagreement underlying this debate on natural behavior is not one about which conditions affect welfare, but a (...) deeper conceptual disagreement about what the state of welfare actually consists of. Those advocating natural behavior typically take a “teleological” view of welfare, in which naturalness is fundamental to welfare, while opponents to the criterion usually take a “subjective” welfare concept, in which welfare consists of the subjective experience of life by the animal. I argue that as natural functioning is neither necessary nor sufficient for understanding welfare, we should move away from the natural behavior criterion to an alternative such as behavioral preferences or enjoyment. This will have effects in the way we understand and measure welfare, and particularly in how we provide for the welfare of animals in a captive setting. (shrink)
De-extinction is the process through which extinct species can be brought back into existence. Although these projects have the potential to cause great harm to animal welfare, discussion on issues surrounding de-extinction have focussed primarily on other issues. In this paper, I examine the potential types of welfare harm that can arise through de-extinction programs, including problems with cloning, captive rearing and re-introduction. I argue that welfare harm should be an important consideration when making decisions on de-extinction projects. Though most (...) of the proposed benefits of these projects are insufficient to outweigh the current potential welfare harm, these problems may be overcome with further development of the technology and careful selection of appropriate species as de-extinction candidates. (shrink)
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subjective experience. Though it would be impossible to cover all its content in a short book review, here we provide a critical evaluation of their two key ideas—the role of Unlimited (...) Associative Learning in the evolution of, and detection of, consciousness and a metaphysical claim about consciousness as a mode of being—in a manner that will hopefully overcome some of the initial resistance of potential readers to tackle a book of this length. (shrink)
Birch’s criterion for the precautionary principle imposes a high evidential standard that many cases will fail to meet. Reliable, relevant anecdotal evidence suggestive of animal sentience should also fall within the scope of the precautionary principle. This would minimize potential suffering (as happened in the case of cephalopods) while further evidence is gathered.
One of the biggest problems in applications of animal welfare science is our ability to make comparisons between different individuals, both within and across species. Although welfare science provides methods for measuring the welfare of individual animals, there’s no established method for comparing measures between individuals. In this paper I diagnose this problem as one of underdetermination—there are multiple conclusions given the data, arising from two sources of variation that we cannot distinguish: variation in the underlying target variable (welfare experience) (...) and in the relationship of measured indicators to the target. I then describe some of the possible methods of making comparisons, based on the use of similarity assumptions that will have greater or lesser justification in different circumstances, and the alternative methods we may use when direct comparisons are not possible. In the end, all our available options for making welfare comparisons are imperfect, and we need to make explicit context-specific decisions about which will be best for the task at hand while acknowledging their potential limitations. Future developments in our understanding of the biology of sentience will help strengthen our methods of making comparisons. (shrink)
Marino & Merskin (2019) demonstrate that sheep are more cognitively complex than typically thought. We should be cautious in interpreting the implications of these results for welfare considerations to avoid perpetuating mistaken beliefs about the moral value of intelligence as opposed to sentience. There are, however, still important ways in which this work can help improve sheeps’ lives.
When making decisions about action to improve animal lives, it is important that we have accurate estimates of how much animals are suffering under different conditions. The current frameworks for making comparative estimates of suffering all fall along the lines of multiplying numbers of animals used by length of life and amount of suffering experienced. However, the numbers used to quantify suffering are usually generated through unreliable and subjective processes which make them unlikely to be correct. In this paper, I (...) look at how we might apply principled methods from animal welfare science to arrive at more accurate scores, which will then help us in making the best decisions for animals. I argue that a combined use of both a whole-animal measure and a combination measurement framework for assessing welfare will give us the most accurate answers to guide our action. (shrink)
The practice of ‘management euthanasia’, in which zoos kill otherwise healthy surplus animals, is a controversial one. The debate over the permissibility of the practice tends to divide along two different views in animal ethics—animal rights and animal welfare. Traditionally, those arguments against the practice have come from the animal rights camp, who see it as a violation of the rights of the animal involved. Arguments in favour come from the animal welfare perspective, who argue that as the animal does (...) not suffer, there is no harm in the practice and it is justified by its potential benefits. Here, I argue that an expansion of the welfare view, encompassing longevity and opportunities for positive welfare, give stronger considerations against management euthanasia, which then require greater benefits to justify its use. (shrink)
One of the biggest ethical issues in animal agriculture is that of the welfare of animals at the end of their lives, during the process of slaughter. Much work in animal welfare science is focussed on finding humane ways to transport and slaughter animals, to minimise the harm done during this process. In this paper, we take a philosophical look at what it means to perform slaughter humanely, beyond simply reducing pain and suffering during the slaughter process. In particular, we (...) will examine the issue of the harms of deprivation inflicted in ending life prematurely, as well as shape of life concerns and the ethical implications of inflicting these harms at the end of life, without the potential for future offsetting through positive experiences. We will argue that though these considerations may mean that no slaughter is in a deep sense truly ‘humane’, this should not undermine the importance of further research and development to ensure that while the practice continues, animal welfare harms are minimised as far as possible. (shrink)
The conditions animals experience during the early developmental stages of their lives can have critical ongoing effects on their future health, welfare, and proper development. In this paper we draw on evolutionary theory to improve our understanding of the processes of developmental programming, particularly Predictive Adaptive Responses (PAR) that serve to match offspring phenotype with predicted future environmental conditions. When these predictions fail, a mismatch occurs between offspring phenotype and the environment, which can have long-lasting health and welfare effects. Examples (...) include metabolic diseases resulting from maternal nutrition and behavioral changes from maternal stress. An understanding of these processes and their evolutionary origins will help in identifying and providing appropriate developmental conditions to optimize offspring welfare. This serves as an example of the benefits of using evolutionary thinking within veterinary science and we suggest that in the same way that evolutionary medicine has helped our understanding of human health, the implementation of evolutionary veterinary science (EvoVetSci) could be a useful way forward for research in animal health and welfare. (shrink)
Mather (2019) has brought together the current empirical research in support of the claim that octopuses possess minds; and the weight of the evidence does appear to support octopus sentience. Being sentient means an organism has welfare concerns, a subjective experience of life that can go well or poorly. Protecting welfare requires knowing what conditions will have a positive or negative impact. Understanding what is in the mind of an octopus will give us valuable insight into what is good for (...) an octopus. (shrink)
With increasing attention given to wild animal welfare and ethics, it has become common to depict animals in the wild as existing in a state dominated by suffering. This assumption is now taken on board by many and frames much of the current discussion; but needs a more critical assessment, both theoretically and empirically. In this paper, we challenge the primary lines of evidence employed in support of wild animal suffering, to provide an alternative picture in which wild animals may (...) often have lives that are far more positive than is commonly assumed. Nevertheless, while it is useful to have an alternative model to challenge unexamined assumptions, our real emphasis in this paper is the need for the development of effective methods for applying animal welfare science in the wild, including new means of data collection, the ability to determine the extent and scope of welfare challenges and opportunities, and their effects on welfare. Until such methods are developed, discussions of wild animal welfare cannot go beyond trading of intuitions, which as we show here can just as easily go in either direction. (shrink)
The conditions of transport and slaughter at the end of their lives are a major challenge to the welfare of agricultural animals. • End-of-life experiences should be of a greater ethical concern than others of similar intensity and duration, due to their position in the animal’s life. • End-of-life welfare can have both internal importance to the animals and external ethical importance to human decision-makers. • We should pay extra care to ensure that the conditions during transport and slaughter are (...) as positive as possible. (shrink)
In order to address why the number of patients suffering from anxiety and depression are seemingly exploding in Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) countries, it is sensible to look at the evolution of human fearfulness responses. Here, we draw on Veit's pathological complexity framework to advance Grossmann's goal of re-characterizing human fearfulness as an adaptive trait.
One of the most challenging questions surrounding subjective animal welfare is whether these states are measurable: that is, is subjective welfare an appropriately quantifiable target for scientific enquiry and ethical and deliberative calculation? The availability of several different types of measurement scale raises important questions regarding whether subjective experience has the right properties to be meaningfully represented on the types of scale required for different applications. This methodological question has so far received scant attention in the animal welfare literature. In (...) this paper, I address this omission by examining the types of measurement scale we can reasonably expect to apply to animal welfare measurements, and which we will actually need for our applications. I argue that our different applications will require variously ordinal, interval, and ratio scales, and that we have sufficient reason to believe that subjective welfare is a target with the appropriate characteristics to justify the practice of representing it using each of these types of scales. (shrink)
Benenson et al. provide a compelling case for treating greater investment into self-protection among females as an adaptive strategy. Here, we wish to expand their proposed adaptive explanation by placing it squarely in modern state-based and behavioural life-history theory, drawing on Veit'spathological complexityframework. This allows us to make sense of alternative “lifestyle” strategies, rather than pathologizing them.
The size of animal exhibits has important effects on their lives and welfare. However, most references to exhibit size only consider floor space and height dimensions, without considering the space afforded by usable features within the exhibit. In this paper, we develop two possible methods for measuring the usable space of zoo exhibits and apply these to a sample exhibit. Having a metric for usable space in place will provide a better reflection of the quality of different exhibits, and enhance (...) comparisons between exhibits. (shrink)
Heintz & Scott-Phillips provide a useful synthesis for constructing a bridge between work by both cognitive scientists and evolutionary biologists studying the diversity of human communication. Here, we aim to strengthen their bridge from the side of evolutionary biology, to argue that we can best understand ostensive communication as a scaffold for more complex forms of intentional expressions.