Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 1–30 | Cite as

Science, sentience, and animal welfare

  • Robert C. JonesEmail author


I sketch briefly some of the more influential theories concerned with the moral status of nonhuman animals, highlighting their biological/physiological aspects. I then survey the most prominent empirical research on the physiological and cognitive capacities of nonhuman animals, focusing primarily on sentience, but looking also at a few other morally relevant capacities such as self-awareness, memory, and mindreading. Lastly, I discuss two examples of current animal welfare policy, namely, animals used in industrialized food production and in scientific research. I argue that even the most progressive current welfare policies lag behind, are ignorant of, or arbitrarily disregard the science on sentience and cognition.


Animal Welfare Ethics Pain Sentience Cognition Agriculture Speciesism Biomedical research 



This research was financially supported in part by a Summer Fellowship from the Animal and Society Institute-Wesleyan Animal Studies (ASI-WAS). I would like to thank ASI-WAS and my ASI-WAS Fellows for their helpful input on this work. I would also like to thank Sara Trechter, Alexandra Horowitz, an anonymous referee, and especially Lori Gruen for their thorough and substantive comments, and Aimin Chen for helpful editorial suggestions on an early draft of this paper. Thanks also to Peter Godfrey-Smith and Kim Sterelny.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, ChicoChicoUSA

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