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April Book of the Month: ‘Sentience and Animal Welfare’ by Professor Donald Broom

Each month we will be featuring a ‘Book of the month.’ We will be selecting from books about animals that our readership finds interesting and informative. If you come across an interesting animal related book (science, law, ethics, policy or simply general interest) please send us your nomination along with the reasons for your choice.

Our first book of the month is Sentience and Animal Welfare by Donald Broom, Professor of Animal Welfare (Emeritus) at the University of Cambridge.

From jumping spiders who can navigate the optimal route through a maze with only minimal information, to Japanese monkeys who can use televised images of their hands to pick up food, this fascinating book provides an insight into the inner lives of animals and their mental abilities.

This is a particularly topical read at the moment as DEFRA has been grappling with the legal mechanisms for recognizing sentience in law and imposing a meaningful duty upon Ministers to have regard to animal interests when formulating and implementing policy. But what does ‘sentience’ mean and what does science tell us about which animals are sentient? These and other questions are addressed by Donald Broom in Sentience and Animal Welfare.

The author adopts a scientifically rigorous and non-discriminatory approach to animal sentience, considering its relevance to important ethical questions facing human and non-human animals, including abortion and euthanasia. Indeed, the author frequently reminds us that humans are themselves a species of animal and addresses the scientific evidence about sentience at the boundaries, including in embryos and fetuses and in brain damaged and older individuals.

In relation to non-human animals, the author considers the relevance of sentience to the obligations we have towards them and provides an ethical framework for the treatment of non-human animals which reflects their welfare needs. He also reminds us that even animals who do not reach the threshold for sentience may still have welfare needs commensurate to their interests.

The author explores the evidence of sentience in invertebrate species and, for cephalopods and decapod crustaceans, highlights their complex learning abilities, as well as evidence supporting the view that they are capable of experiencing pain.

The science around sentience is explained in a digestible way for a non-scientific readership and the book is recommended reading for students of animal welfare science, ethics and law. It is also likely be of interest to a general readership interested in learning more about animal sentience.

You can purchase the book here.

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