Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Colloquial arguments for fish feeling pain are deeply rooted in anthropometric tendencies that confuse escape responses to noxious stimuli with evidence for consciousness. More developed arguments often rely on just-so stories of fish displaying complex behaviours as proof of consciousness. In response to commentaries on the idea that fish do not feel pain, I raise the need to go beyond just-so stories and to rigorously analyse the neural circuitry responsible for specific behaviours using new and emerging technologies in neuroscience. By deciphering the causal relationship between neural information processing and conscious behaviour, it should be possible to assess cogently the likelihood of whether a vertebrate species has the neural hardware necessary to — at least — support the feeling of pain.

Author Biography

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