Woodruff, Michael L. (2017) Scientific uncertainty and the animal sentience precautionary principle. Animal Sentience 16(11)
Jonathan Birch, Animal sentience and the precautionary principle
Jonathan Birch offers the animal sentience precautionary principle (ASPP) as a framework for assigning sentience to animals. In doing this, he defines a BAR which when crossed will lead to action (ACT) and implementation of the ASPP. His effort to create a clear empirical basis for implementation of the precautionary principle in the area of animal welfare regulation is important. I argue, however, that his BAR is so low that the evidence supporting ACT is in danger of being overwhelmed by the problems of induction and the underdetermination of theory by evidence. If this happens, policy makers might well disregard the ASPP and fail to include sentient species in animal welfare regulation. I suggest that the BAR needs to be raised by inclusion of more independent indicators of sentience than those required by Birch.