Animals are conscious and should be treated as such

October 1, 2012
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(Credit: Giulio Prisco)

Are animals conscious? Yes, says the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, publicly proclaimed by three eminent neuroscientists, David Edelman of the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, Philip Low of Stanford University and Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology, Marc Bekoff writes in New Scientist.

“Non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors,” the declaration says.

“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.”

“I hope the declaration will be used to protect animals from being treated abusively and inhumanely,” says Bekoff. ”All too often, sound scientific knowledge about animal cognition, emotions and consciousness is not recognized in animal welfare laws.”

However, the European Union’s Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force on  December 1, 2009, recognizes that animals are sentient beings and calls on member states to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals” in agriculture, fisheries, transport, research and development and space policies.”