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Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Author Website

http://www.fecpl.ca/people/ A

Commentary Type

Open Commentary

Thread

Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain

Abstract

There is vigorous ongoing debate about whether fish feel pain and have the capacity to suffer. The body of literature dedicated to the topic is increasing but what is particularly problematic is that the majority of the contributions represent opinion pieces and thus fall within the realm of advocacy. Many of the empirical research papers purporting that fish do or do not feel pain have problems with cavalier use of definitions, poor experimental design, or statistical/technical issues and tend to include advocacy statements in their interpretations. Rather than continuing to spin our wheels and deepen the divide, I would advocate our community undertake a balanced, transparent and rigorous appraisal of all available evidence to help guide us and provide more clarity on pain and suffering in fish. This could be done through the use of evidence synthesis techniques such as systematic review and should be done by a reputable independent body such as a learned society or scholarly organization. Our continued emphasis on littering the peer-reviewed literature with opinion and advocacy is only confusing the matter for the public, media, policy makers and the rest of the scientific community.

Author Biography

Steven J. Cooke Steven_Cooke@carleton.ca is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Carleton University, Ottawa. His research is on compatibility of catch and release angling with marine protected areas, physiological correlates of reproduction and fitness, and the spatial ecology of fish. http://www.fecpl.ca/people/