SUFFERING IN NON-HUMAN ANIMALS: Perspectives from Animal Welfare Science and Animal Welfare Law

Peter Fordyce
2017 Global Journal of Animal Law   unpublished
The paper argues that suffering is an aversive/negative subjective mental state originally inferred in animals, by humans, using an anthropomorphic interpretation of an animal's situation, and the consequences of that situation on the animal's behaviour or physical state. Over the last half century, developments in the field of animal welfare science have provided a substantial body of data about what actually matters to animals, and how their responses to adverse events manifest, by examining
more » ... heir preferences, and measuring changes in their anatomy, physiology and behaviour over a range of states of welfare-from good to very poor welfare. Data from animal welfare science can provide an objective reference point for data collected and used as evidence in criminal proceedings for unnecessary suffering. Animal welfare science can therefore assist the courts by providing objective criteria on which the premise of an argument regarding whether or not an animal has suffered can be assessed, rather than relying on conjectural opinion based on well meaning, but often uninformed, anthropomorphically driven emotions. Animals, like humans who are incapable of verbally communicating their mental state and preferences by virtue of age, or physical or mental infirmity, cannot verbally communicate whether they are enduring an aversive/negative subjective mental state. Animal welfare science provides an indirect, but rational and robust mechanism to infer what an animal's subjective state was/is in relation to what has happened to it, by examining scientific data relating to its physiology, pathology and behaviour, and considering this in the context of published animal welfare science data derived from animals in situations they are known to find aversive, and would choose not to endure.