Sentience and animal welfare: New thoughts and controversies

Sentience and animal welfare: New thoughts and controversies


Professor Donald Broom is arguably the most distinguished scientist of our time in the field of Animal Welfare and he has a wide variety of peer-reviewed papers on the subjects of animal sentience, slaughter and the living and transportation conditions of livestock. He is currently the Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University.


We have condensed his response to criticism for his seminal work Sentience and Animal Welfare please read the full paper here (LINK to paper).


Broom believes that “scientists and philosophers should address the issues raised and inform the public so that there is more widespread knowledge about animal functioning”


For Professor Broom, sentience and the question of whether animals are sentient is integral to the advancement of animal welfare. Sentience can be defined as the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. If animals are sentient then they have the ability to feel pain and in turn understand it. This reality that is proffered by Broom and supported by science indicates that animals do indeed feel pain and therefore, the use of non-stun slaughter is ethically questionable.


Animals have sentience and understand the pain they feel. Broom notes how the ability to feel pain should not dictate welfare, as there are humans who cannot feel certain pain (paraplegics, comatose and brain-damaged to name a few) who would certainly deserve welfare. To quote Broom “It is more logical and more useful for welfare to mean the state of an individual as regards its attempts to cope with its environment and hence for the word to be applicable to all animals, whether sentient or not”.


This piece ends with optimism: “Efforts that result in changing animal production methods in ways that improve animal welfare are widely regarded as desirable in a society where the animal usage is continuing. However, some animal usage has ceased, in part because there was evidence from research indicating poor welfare, for example, fur farming and cosmetics testing in many countries.”


This positivity at the end should keep all you activists fighting for a better tomorrow for animals.








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