Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling


Only humans can report feeling pain. In contrast, pain in animals is typically inferred on the basis of nonverbal behaviour. Unfortunately, these behavioural data can be problematic when the reliability and validity of the behavioural tests are questionable. The thesis proposed here is based on the bioengineering principle that structure determines function. Basic functional homologies can be mapped to structural homologies across a broad spectrum of vertebrate species. For example, olfaction depends on olfactory glomeruli in the olfactory bulbs of the forebrain, visual orientation responses depend on the laminated optic tectum in the midbrain, and locomotion depends on pattern generators in the spinal cord throughout vertebrate phylogeny, from fish to humans. Here I delineate the region of the human brain that is directly responsible for feeling painful stimuli. The principal structural features of this region are identified and then used as biomarkers to infer whether fish are, at least, anatomically capable of feeling pain. Using this strategy, I conclude that fish lack the necessary neurocytoarchitecture, microcircuitry, and structural connectivity for the neural processing required for feeling pain.

Author Biography

Brian Key brian.key@uq.edu.au is Head of the Brain Growth and Regeneration Lab at the University of Queensland, dedicated to understanding the principles of stem cell biology, differentiation, axon guidance, plasticity, regeneration and development of the brain.

Address: School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia


Article Thread

Key, Brian (2016) Why fish do not feel pain Animal Sentience 2016.003

Balcombe, Jonathan (2016) Cognitive evidence of fish sentience Animal Sentience 2016.008

Braithwaite, Victoria A. and Droege, Paula (2016) Why human pain can’t tell us whether fish feel pain Animal Sentience 2016.009

Broom, Donald M. (2016) Fish brains and behaviour indicate capacity for feeling pain Animal Sentience 2016.010

Brown, Culum (2016) Comparative evolutionary approach to pain perception in fishes Animal Sentience 2016.011

Chella, Antonio (2016) Robot fish do not need sentience Animal Sentience 2016.012

Dinets, Vladimir (2016) No cortex, no cry Animal Sentience 2016.013

Haikonen, Pentti O. (2016) On the sentience of fish Animal Sentience 2016.014

Hart, Paul J.B. (2016) Fighting forms of expression Animal Sentience 2016.015

Jones, Robert C. (2016) Fish sentience and the precautionary principle Animal Sentience 2016.016

Manzotti, Riccardo (2016) No evidence that pain is painful neural process Animal Sentience 2016.017

Mather, Jennifer A. (2016) An invertebrate perspective on pain Animal Sentience 2016.018

Ng, Yew-Kwang (2016) Could fish feel pain? A wider perspective Animal Sentience 2016.019

Seth, Anil K. (2016) Why fish pain cannot and should not be ruled out Animal Sentience 2016.020

Striedter, Georg (2016) Lack of neocortex does not imply fish cannot feel pain Animal Sentience 2016.021

Key, Brian (2016) Going beyond just-so stories Animal Sentience 2016.022

Baluška, František (2016) Should fish feel pain? A plant perspective Animal Sentience 2016.023

Burghardt, Gordon (2016) Mediating claims through critical anthropomorphism Animal Sentience 2016.024

Derbyshire, Stuart W.G. (2016) Fish lack the brains and the psychology for pain Animal Sentience 2016.025

Elwood, Robert W. (2016) A single strand of argument with unfounded conclusion Animal Sentience 2016.026

Gagliano, Monica (2016) What would the Babel fish say? Animal Sentience 2016.027

Godfrey-Smith, Peter (2016) Pain in parallel Animal Sentience 2016.028

Gonçalves-de-Freitas, Eliane (2016) Pain and fish welfare Animal Sentience 2016.029

Merker, Bjorn (2016) Drawing the line on pain Animal Sentience 2016.030

Rose, James D. (2016) Pain in fish: Weighing the evidence Animal Sentience 2016.032

Shriver, Adam J. (2016) Cortex necessary for pain — but not in sense that matters Animal Sentience 2016.034

Sneddon, Lynne U. and Leach, Matthew C. (2016) Anthropomorphic denial of fish pain Animal Sentience 2016.035

Stevens, E. Don (2016) Why is fish “feeling” pain controversial? Animal Sentience 2016.036

Van Rysewyk, Simon (2016) Nonverbal indicators of pain Animal Sentience 2016.037

Wadiwel, Dinesh Joseph (2016) Fish and pain: The politics of doubt Animal Sentience 2016.038

Key, Brian (2016) Falsifying the null hypothesis that “fish do not feel pain" Animal Sentience 2016.039

Brown, Culum (2016) Fish pain: An inconvenient truth Animal Sentience 2016.058

Damasio, Antonio and Damasio, Hanna (2016) Pain and other feelings in humans and animals Animal Sentience 2016.059

Devor, Marshall (2016) Where is pain in the brain? Animal Sentience 2016.060

Diggles, B. K. (2016) Fish pain: Would it change current best practice in the real world? Animal Sentience 2016.061

Walters, Edgar T. (2016) Pain-capable neural substrates may be widely available in the animal kingdom Animal Sentience 2016.063

Merker, Bjorn H. (2016) How not to move the line drawn on pain Animal Sentience 2016.064

Safina, Carl (2016) Fish pain: A painful topic Animal Sentience 2016.066

Bowers, Robert Ian (2016) Devaluation as a strategy to address behaviourally whether fish feel Animal Sentience 2016.073

Key, Brian (2016) Burden of proof lies with proposer of celestial teapot hypothesis Animal Sentience 2016.079

Safina, Carl (2016) Fish pain's burden of proof Animal Sentience 2016.081

Merker, Bjorn H. (2016) The line drawn on pain still holds Animal Sentience 2016.090