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Anthropomorphic denial of fish pain

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Leach



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Key (2016) affirms that we do not know how the fish brain processes pain but denies — because fish lack a human-like cortex — that fish can feel pain. He affirms that birds, like fish, have a singly-laminated cortex and that the structure of the bird brain is quite different from that of the human brain, yet he does not deny that birds can feel pain. In this commentary we describe how Key cites studies that substantiate mammalian pain but discounts the same kind of data as evidence of fish pain. We suggest that Key's interpretations are illogical, do not reflect the published empirical evidence for pain in fish, and are out of touch with current thinking on brain evolution. We agree that more scientific data are needed to understand how the brains of fish — and other organisms — function. But the incompleteness of current knowledge certainly does not constitute evidence for inferring that fish in particular do not feel pain.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sneddon LU, Leach MC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animal Sentience

Year: 2016

Volume: 1

Issue: 3

Pages: 1-4

Online publication date: 13/12/2015

Acceptance date: 02/12/2015

Date deposited: 29/11/2017

ISSN (electronic): 2377-7478

Publisher: The Humane Society Institute for Society and Policy (HSISP)