Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Starting with its title, Key’s (2016) target article advocates the view that fish do not feel pain. The author describes the neuroanatomical, physiological and behavioural conditions involved in the experience of pain in humans and rodents and confidently applies analogical arguments as though they were established facts in support of the negative conclusion about the inability of fish to feel pain. The logical reasoning, unfortunately, becomes somewhat incoherent, with the arbitrary application of the designated human criteria for an analogical argument to one animal species (e.g., rodents) but not another (fish). Research findings are reported selectively, and questionable interpretations are invoked to support the author’s position. In this commentary, I briefly examine two of the analogies presented in Key’s target article and highlight the role (and consequences) that personal opinions and preconceptions have in issues concerning human ethical responsibilities toward the welfare of non-human species.

Author Biography

Monica Gagliano monica.gagliano@uwa.edu.au is Research Associate Professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Research Fellow of the Australian Research Council at the University of Western Australia. She has written many articles on animal and plant behavioural and evolutionary ecology. She pioneered the new research field of plant bioacoustics and recently extended the concept of cognition to plants, reigniting the discourse on plant subjectivity and ethical standing. http://www.uwa.edu.au/people/monica.gagliano