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Animal Suffering: An Evolutionary Approach

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Though much is written about animal suffering, little is said about the nature of suffering itself. Without any clarity about its conceptual nature, discussions concerning detection, prevention and reduction of suffering are seriously hampered. This paper considers - and rejects - some of the more usual understandings of suffering (such as that suffering is synonymous with either pain or negative emotions). Instead, an alternative understanding of suffering is proposed, namely that suffering is the experiencing of one's life as going badly. This notion is tied to the loss of individuals' central life projects. It is suggested that non-human animals' central projects are their evolved survival skills. This alternative view of suffering has major implications for animal welfare.

Keywords: animals; feelings; pain; suffering; welfare

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-05-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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