Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


In his excellent target article, Key (2016) develops a mechanistic argument in an attempt to show why it is unlikely that fish can “feel” pain or for that matter, “feel” anything. The topic is controversial and likely to achieve the goal of getting many hits for the inaugural issue of the new journal, Animal Sentience. In my view, the question is unlikely to be answered, for two reasons. First, because the proponents of the “fish feel pain” controversy are untrained and unskilled in the details and jargon of neurophysiology and/or neuroanatomy, and the opponents of the controversy, like Key, are untrained and unskilled in the details and jargon regarding the philosophy of consciousness. Second, the neural substrate of consciousness in any animal, including humans, has not been clearly delineated with absolute certainty.

Author Biography

E. Don Stevens dstevens@upei.ca, Adjunct Professor, UPEI, and Professor Emeritus of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, is a fish physiologist who has spent the last decade studying the pragmatic and practical aspects of the “fish pain” question through the pharmacology and side-effects of analgesics in fishes. http://www.uoguelph.ca/~dstevens/