News and views
The Question of Conscience
The debate on animal consciousness seems, at last, to have reached a consensus.
The Francis Crick Memorial Conference held at Cambridge University in July this year produced the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. This significant agreement was signed by three eminent neuroscientists and formally recognises that animals do in fact possess the substrates of conscience and the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours.
Thanks to Dr Richard Ryder [make a link from “Dr Richard Ryder” this debate has continued over decades. In the ‘90’s the British psychologist and philosopher espoused his theory of Painism. He cites three types of evidence to support this: the anatomical evidence of effective nervous systems, the behavioural evidence of avoidance (and other) behaviours and the neurochemical evidence of substances known to be associated with the transmission of pain.
It is perhaps with some regret then that we note the Declaration reflects Dr Ryder’s earlier theory, it concludes that: “non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
Perhaps if this had been recognised sooner, we may have been able to prevent the suffering of animals who continue to this day to be bred for medical research. On a brighter note, if this Declaration is successful in changing perceptions, it has the potential to significantly change international animal welfare legislation. Let’s take a moment today to consider how this declaration gives us hope that all humans may be compassionate towards animals and respect their ability to feel and empathise as we do.
There are currently no comments on this post
Post a Comment
Your comment will have to be approved by a site administrator before it is shown on the site so please be patient.