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A Neuropsychological and Evolutionary Approach to Animal Consciousness and Animal Suffering

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This paper will try to answer the question of whether animals can suffer.

My aim is, firstly, to discuss whether or not an irreflexive animal consciousness could experience suffering. I do this because there are authors who assume such a consciousness in animals. The second part of this contribution concerns the question of the cognitive and neural prerequisites which have to be present in order to give consciousness, or the suffering experience, a positive fitness value. Further, I analyse for which animals these brain structures and cognitive capacities have been described, since consciousness and suffering can only be expected in these animals.

In order to answer the questions, several assumptions had to be made. If the assumptions are correct than the results of the various analyses demonstrate that: i) an irreflexive consciousness is unable to experience suffering; and ii) animal suffering may, for the time being, only be expected in the anthropoid apes. However, there is an important difference between the registration of pain as a stimulus, which does not induce feelings of suffering, and the experience of pain as an emotion, which does induce suffering. According to the arguments presented in this contribution, the experience of pain as a stimulus could be expected in far more species than anthropoid apes alone.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 February 2001

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