Focus Group 2015/2016
Pain is a complex phenomenon that continues to elude our full understanding. It is an adaptive process that helps us to protect ourselves from damage. In humans, it is widely accepted that pain represents “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, associated with actual or potential tissue damage”. But what about pain in animals? While most of us are willing to accept that another person will feel and experience the hurt and suffering associated with pain, extending such capacities to animals is something that some people are reluctant to do, particularly for animals that seem quite alien to us such as fishes. In part, this is because to agree that animals can suffer means accepting that they are sentient creatures that are consciously aware of their feelings – a capacity that is challenging to demonstrate conclusively. We might accept extending the capacity for consciousness to the great apes, and possibly to other mammals, but it begins to feel awkward as we consider amphibians and fish. This Focus Group brings together researchers from diverse backgrounds spanning both science and the humanities to address key gaps in our current understanding of animal awareness and the capacity for pain and suffering.