Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Animal Sentience is Not Science Fiction: Recent Literature

Recent essays are essential reads for a wide audience.

Sentience in nonhuman animals (animals) is a "hot" topic receiving attention from a wide range of researchers with different interests and agendas. For the purpose of this essay and as I've done before, I'm defining "sentience" as "the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to experience subjectivity" (for wide-ranging discussion please click here.) 

Based on the overwhelming and universal acceptance of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (please see "Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings") I previously offered what I call a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience. I didn't offer any specific location for this declaration because with very few exceptions, people worldwide, including researchers and non-researchers alike, accept that other animals are sentient beings. The Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience can be a deep, personal, and inspirational journey that comes from our heart and also has a strong and rapidly growing evidence-based foundation. 

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I also stressed that it is important to note that the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare is based on the indisputable fact that animals are sentient and that they can suffer and feel pain, as is the Treaty of Lisbon and the rapidly growing field of compassionate conservation.

Sentience on the brain: Some essential reads

Here, I simply want to call attention to three recent essays that are essential reads in the broad area of animal sentience (for more discussion please see "After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven"). The first is an essay by Helen Proctor who works for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) called "Animal Sentience: Where Are We and Where Are We Heading?" and the other one, by Helen S. Proctor, Gemma Carder, and Amelia R. Cornish titled "Searching for Animal Sentience: A Systematic Review of the Scientific Literature" is a comprehensive review of available literature. Both are available for free.

The other essay called "Science, sentience, and animal welfare" by Robert Jones of the Department of Philosophy at California State University in Chico, is a detailed comprehensive review (please contact the author at rcjones@csuchico.edu). Professor Jones concludes, "... even the most progressive current welfare policies lag behind, are ignorant of, or arbitrarily disregard the science on sentience and cognition." I've also noted this is other many essays (please see and and). Basic facts about sentience and empathy in birds and rodents for example, that have been available for a while, still have not been incorporated into the Federal Animal Welfare Act in the United States. However, they are very important in the growing field of compassionate conservation (see also). 

The state of the animals 2013: Animal sentience is not science fiction

For those very few skeptics who remain uncertain of animal sentience these papers should convince you that detailed scientific data from numerous studies show that a wide-range of animals are sentient beings, and for those who know this to be the case, these essays provide wonderful resources to share widely.

It's time to recognize what we know about animal sentience and to use it on the animals' behalf. Animal sentience is a well-demonstrated fact, not science fiction.

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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