Animals suffer like us

Animals suffer like us

Neuroscience has more than solid evidence that all mammals, birds and other species are aware of their suffering.

Animals suffer like us

Last update: February 18, 2022

Are animals aware of the pain they feel? Anyone who lives in close contact with an animal can answer this question perfectly. But what does neuroscience tell us about it? Can we confidently say that science supports the thesis that animals suffer like us? Do they perceive their own pain and that of others?



Well, as you might expect, the answer is yes. Neuroscience has more than solid evidence that all mammals, birds and other species are aware of their suffering. But this is not new. In 2013, the Cambridge Declaration had already addressed the issue by providing irrefutable evidence. The research continues and all lead to the same result.

It has been possible to identify similar neural networks in animals and humans whose activity coincides with conscious experience. Apparently thereand neural networks that are activated when an animal feels an emotion, are the same ones that are activated in humans. Renowned neurologists from around the world support this thesis and agree that animals suffer like humans.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness: Animals Suffer!

Almost seven years ago, on July 7, 2012, a group of well-known scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. This document states that not only humans, but also a significant number of animal species, including vertebrates and invertebrates, are conscious beings.  This means that they are sensitive beings, creatures who are aware of what is happening to them and who can experience positive or negative mental states.


There is scientific consensus to support the evidence showing that theand non-human species possess the neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological substrates characteristic of the conscious state, in addition to the ability to act intentionally. That is to say, humans are not the only ones who possess the neurological substrates responsible for awareness.


During the drafting of the Cambridge Declaration, Philip Low, founder and executive director of the California neurodiagnostic company NeuroVigil, Cristoph Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, David Edelmann of the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, and other neuroscientists have spoken. of prestige.

It is a strong and clear message which confirms that what makes a living being suffer is its ability to discern between positive and negative experiences. This is considerable evidence that should be taken into consideration to avoid discriminating against certain species.

Recent studies

Since 2012, numerous other studies have been carried out that could not help but support the already existing thesis. In 2016 Jarrod Bailey and Shiranee Pereira presented a study on brain networks related to emotions and empathy in dogs. This study extends and at the same time confirms the conclusions of the Cambridge Declaration.

INRA, in collaboration with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), conducted a new updated scientific evaluation of the existing literature on animal awareness. The results of this analysis were presented in 2107 in Parma. This research supports the hypothesis that animals possess a nervous system capable of supporting conscious processes of complex information, including negative emotions caused by nociceptive stimuli.

The study considers several species, including primates, corvids, rodents and ruminants. Thanks to this study, it was possible to conclude that animals with autobiographical memory, such as i primates, corvids and rodents, are capable of conceiving desires and objectives also in relation to the past and the future; it follows that they can be negatively affected by the adverse experience.



There are no more excuses: animals suffer

Seven years after the presentation of the more than solid evidence that animals suffer and after the numerous studies that confirm this hypothesis, there are no more excuses to defend animal abuse by claiming that such creatures feel no pain.

All those who are in favor and defend their right to have fun by causing harm to other living beings should at least present new arguments; those used so far have been widely disproved by science. Likewise, the regulation of the right to the protection and well-being of these living beings is having a great echo within the legal world, where the evidence presented by science is turning into laws that will affect many other areas.


It seems that as of now studies on human consciousness will go hand in hand with those on the consciousness of our animal companions. And this, although there are some dissonant voices, is certainly good news.

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