Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Open Commentary


David M. Peña-Guzmán, Can nonhuman animals commit suicide?


Peña-Guzmán makes a strong case, using examples from the media and scientific literature, that many captive animals suffer severely. In examining the possibility of animal suicide, he dismisses the need for “reflective self-subjectivity” and “intent” in suicidal behavior. He claims that at least some animals understand “death,” citing examples of behavior he deems to be death “rituals.” But these can be more simply interpreted. The possibility of animal suicide remains more dubious than Peña-Guzmán suggests.

Author Biography

Carolyn A. Ristau is a cognitive ethologist whose research includes field studies of cognition and communication in primates and plovers. She also investigates human ethno-political conflict and cooperation, primarily in Africa. Currently, she is writing a biography of the revolutionary scientist Donald R. Griffin, whose 1976 book, The Question of Animal Awareness, was instrumental in creating the paradigm shift in the study of animal mental experience. https://barnard.academia.edu/CarolynRistau