Animal Sentience

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Lynne U. Sneddon, Javier Lopez-Luna, David C.C. Wolfenden, Matthew C. Leach, Ana M. Valentim, Peter J. Steenbergen, Nabila Bardine, Amanda D. Currie, Donald M. Broom, and Culum Brown, Fish sentience denial: Muddying the waters


Arguments for fish sentience have difficulty with the philosophical zombie problem. Progress in AI has shown that complex learning, pain behavior, and pain as a motivational drive can be emulated by robots without any internal subjective experience. Therefore, demonstrating these abilities in fish does not necessarily demonstrate that fish are sentient. Further evidence for fish sentience may come from optogenetic studies of neural networks in zebrafish. Such studies may show that zebrafish have neural network patterns similar to those that correlate with sentience in humans. Given the present uncertainty regarding sentience in fish, caution should be applied regarding the precautionary principle. Adopting this principle may cause distress to humans, who are certainly sentient, as they strive to protect animals that may not be.

Author Biography

Shelley Adamo is a professor and invertebrate behavioural physiologist. She studies how parasites zombify their insect hosts. She isn’t sure whether her caterpillars are sentient, but they seem even less so after their brains are taken over by a common parasitic wasp, Cotesia congregata. www.adamolab.ca