Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

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Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Even though Key (2016) has done a very thorough job of assembling evidence showing that fish are unlikely to have the neurological capacity to be conscious and feel pain, there will still be a significant number of behavioural biologists who want to continue maintaining that fish do have consciousness and suffer from pain. In this commentary the reasons for people resisting the conclusions of the evidence are discussed. The reasons revolve around three aspects of the debate: the overblown respect humans have for the powers of consciousness in our day-to-day behaviour, the often used assumption that the possession of complex behaviour must mean that an animal is conscious, and by the misapplication of words such as ‘pain.’

Author Biography

Paul J. B. Hart pbh@le.ac.uk is Emeritus Professor of Fish Biology and Fisheries, at University of Leicester. He does fieldwork on the ecology and management of inshore fisheries, especially crab fisheries and individual-based modelling of mechanisms that drive the fishery or the ecology of the stock being exploited. He has also worked extensively on fish foraging behaviour http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/npb/people/pbh