Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare (defined as net happiness, or enjoyment minus suffering). Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science. Evolutionary economics and population dynamics are used to help answer basic questions in welfare biology: Which species are affective sentients capable of welfare? Do they enjoy positive or negative welfare? Can their welfare be dramatically increased? Under plausible axioms, all conscious species are plastic and all plastic species are conscious (and, with a stronger axiom, capable of welfare). More complex niches favour the evolution of more rational species. Evolutionary economics also supports the common-sense view that individual sentients failing to survive to mate suffer negative welfare. A kind of God-made (or evolution-created) fairness between species is also unexpectedly found. The contrast between growth maximization (as may be favoured by natural selection), average welfare, and total welfare maximization is discussed. It is shown that welfare could be increased without even sacrificing numbers (at equilibrium). Since the long-term reduction in animal suffering depends on scientific advances, strict restrictions on animal experimentation may be counter-productive to animal welfare.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Barnett, J. L., and Hemsworth, P. H.: 1990, ‘The validity of physiological and behavioural measures of animal welfare’,Applied Animal Behaviour Science 25, 177–187.
Broom, D. M.: 1988, ‘The scientific assessment animal welfare’,Applied Animal Behaviour Science 20, 5–19.
Burt, C.: 1962, ‘The concept of consciousness’,British Journal of Psychology 53, 229–242.
Bunge, Mario: 1980,The Mind-Body Problem: A Psychological Approach, Pergamon, Oxford.
Cabanac, M.: 1979, ‘Sensory pleasures’,Quarterly Review of Biology 54, 1–29.
Cabanac, M.: 1992, ‘Pleasure: the common currency’:Journal of Theoretical Biology 155, 173–200.
Cassell, Eric J.: 1982, ‘The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine’,New England Journal of Medicine 306, 639–645.
Catania, A. C., and Harnad, S. (eds.): 1988,The Selection of Behavior, Cambridge University Press.
Chapman, C. Richard: 1990, ‘On the neurobiological basis of suffering’.Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 16–17.
Chomsky, N.: 1959, ‘Review ofVerbal Behaviour by B. F. Skinner’,Language 35, 26–58.
Cody, M.: 1966, ‘A general theory of clutch size’,Evolution 20, 174–184.
Colgan, P.: 1989,Animal Motivation, Chapman and Hall, London.
Dawkins, Marian S.: 1980,Animal Suffering: The Science of Animal Welfare, Chapman & Hall, London.
Dawkins, Marian S.: 1987, ‘Minding and mattering’, in:Mindwaves, ed. C. Blakemore & S. Greenfield, Blackwells.
Dawkins, Marian S.: 1990, ‘From an animal's point of view: motivation, fitness, and animal welfare’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 1–9, 49–54.
Deecke, L., Grözinger, B., and Kornhuber, H. H.: 1976, ‘Voluntary finger movement in men: cerebral potentials and theory’,Biological Cybernetics 23, 99–119.
DeGrazia, David: 1990, ‘On Singer: more argument, less prescriptivism’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 18.
Donchin, E., McCarthy, G., Kutas, M., and Ritter, W.: 1983, ‘Event-related brain potential in the study of consciousness’, in: R. J. Davidson, G. E. Schwartz, and D. Shapiro, eds.Consciousness and Self-Regulation, Plenum, New York, 81–121.
Duncan, I. J. H.: 1974, ‘A scientific assessment of welfare’,Proceedings of the British Society for Animal Production 3, 9–19.
Duncan, I. J. H.: 1987, ‘The welfare of farm animals: an ethological approach’,Science Progress (Oxford)71, 317–326.
Eisemann, C. H., Jorgensen, W. K., Merrit, D. J., Rice, M. J., Cribb, B. W., Webb, P. D., and Azlucki, M. P.: 1984, ‘Do insects feel pain? A biological view’,Experientia 40, 164–167.
Fiorito, G.: 1986, ‘Is there pain in invertebrates?’Behavioral Processes 12, 383–386.
Gallup, Gordon G. Jr.: 1985, ‘Do minds exist in species other than our own?’Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 9, 631–641.
Gould, J. L.: 1985, ‘How bees remember flower shapes’,Science 227, 1492–1494.
Gould, J. L., and Gould, C. G.: 1982, ‘The insect mind: physics or metaphysics?’ in: Griffin (1982)..
Gould, S. J.: 1980,The Panda's Thumb, Norton, New York.
Gould, S. J., and Lewontin, R. C.: 1979, ‘The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme’.Proc. Royal Soc. B205, 581–598.
Gray, J. A.: 1990, ‘In defence of speciesism.’Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 22–23.
Griffin, Donald R.: 1976,The Question of Animal Awareness, New York: Rockefeller University Press.
Griffin, Donald R., ed.: 1982,Animal Mind — Human Mind, Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Griffin, Donald R.: 1984,Animal Thinking, Harvard University Press.
Griffin, Donald R.: 1992,Animal Minds, University of Chicago Press.
Harnad, S.: 1982, ‘Consciousness: an afterthought’,Cognitive Brain Theory 5, 29–47.
Hodos, W.: 1982, ‘Some perspectives on the evolution of intelligence and the brain,’ in: Griffin (1982),. 33–55.
Jastrow, Robert: 1981,The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe, Simon & Schuster, New York.
Jaynes, J.: 1976,The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Jerison, Harry J.: 1973,Evolution of the Brain and Intelligence, Academic Press, New York.
Josephson, B. D. and Ramachandran, V. S.: 1980,Consciousness and the Physical World, Pergamon, Oxford.
Krueger, Lester E.: 1989, ‘Reconciling Fechner and Stevens: Toward a unified psychological law’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12, 251–320.
Lack, D.: 1954,The Natural Regulation of Animal Numbers, Clarendon, Oxford.
Libet, B.,et al.: 1979, ‘Subjective referral of the timing for a conscious sensory experience’,Brain 102, 193–224.
Lieberman, D. A.: 1990,Learning: Behavior and Cognition, Wadsworth, Belmont, California.
Lorenz, K.: 1971,Studies in Animal and Human Behavior, Vol. 2. Methuen, London.
Lorenz, K.: 1977,Behind the Mirror, Methuen, London.
Lorenz, K. Z., and Tinbergen, N.: 1938, ‘Taxis and Instinkthandlung in der Eirollbewegung der Graugans’,Z. Tierpsychol 2, 238–342.
Luce, R. D., and Galanter, E.: 1963, ‘Psychophysical scaling’. in: R. D. Luce', R. R. Bush and E. Galanter, eds.Handbook of Mathematical Psychology, Vol. 1. Wiley, New York.
Maxwell, Mary: 1984,Human Evolution: A Philosophical Anthropology, Columbia University Press, New York.
Maynard Smith, J.: 1984, ‘A one-sided view of evolution’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Reprinted in Catania and Harnad (1988).
McFarland, D.: 1989,Problems of Animal Behaviour, Longman.
McKearney, J. W.: 1970, ‘Responding under fixed-ratio and multiple fixed-interval fixed-ratio schedules of electric shock presentation’,Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior 14, 1–6.
Melzack, R., and Wall, P. D.: 1965, ‘Pain mechanisms: a new theory’,Science 150, 971–979.
Morton, D. B., and Griffiths, P. H. M.: 1985, ‘Guidelines on the recognition of pain, distress and discomfort in experimental animals and an hypothesis of assessment’,Veterinary Record 116, 431–436.
Mueller, D. C.: 1989,Public Choice II, Cambridge University Press.
Murray, B. G. Jr.: 1979,Population Dynamics: Alternative Models, Academic Press, New York.
Ng, Y-K.: 1975, ‘Bentham or Bergson? Finite sensibility, utility functions, and social welfare functions’,Review of Economic Studies 43, 545–570.
Ng, Y-K.: 1983,Welfare Economics, 2nd edition, Macmillan, London.
Ng, Y-K.: 1989a, ‘What should we do about future generations? Impossibility of Parfit's Theory X’,Economics and Philosophy 5, 235–253.
Ng, Y-K.: 1989b, ‘Individual irrationality and social welfare’,Social Choice and Welfare 6, 87–101.
Ng, Y-K.: 1990a, ‘The case for and difficulties in using “demand areas” to measure changes in well being’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 30–31.
Ng, Y-K.: 1990b, ‘Welfarism and utilitarianism: a rehabilitation’,Utilitas 2, 171–193.
Ng, Y-K.: 1992a, ‘Happiness surveys: ways to improve accuracy and comparability’, Monash Econonics Seminar Paper No. 14/92.
Ng, Y-K.: 1992b, ‘Complex niches favours the evolution of more rational species’, Monash Economics Paper No. 16/92.
Ng, Y-K.: 1992c, ‘Population dynamics and animal welfare’, Monash Economics Seminar Paper No. 15/92.
Ng, Y-K. and Wang, Jianguo: 1993, ‘Relative income, aspiration, environmental quality, individual and political myopia: why may the rat-race for material growth be welfare-reducing?’Mathematical Social Sciences 26, 3–23.
Norton-Griffiths, M.: 1969, ‘The organization, control and development of parental feeding in the oyster catcher’,Behaviour 34, 55–114.
Ojemann, G.: 1986, ‘Brain mechanism for consciousness and conscious experience’,Canadian Psychology 27, 158–168.
Parker, G. A., and Begon, M.: 1986, ‘Optimal egg size and clutch size: effects of environment and maternal phenotype’,The American Naturalist 128, 573–592.
Penrose, R.: 1989,The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Rensch, B. and Nolte, A.: 1949, ‘Über die Funktion auf den Rücken transplantierter Augen’.Zeitschrift für vergleichende Physiologie 31, 696–710.
Ristau, C. A.: 1991,Cognitive Ethology: The Minds of Other Animals, Essays in Honor of D. R. Griffin. Hillsdale, Lawrence Erlbaum, N.J.
Rollin, Bernard E.: 1989,The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Science, Oxford University Press.
Rowan, Andrew N.: 1990, ‘To suffer, or not to suffer? That is the question’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 33–34.
Segal, Evalyn F.: 1990, ‘Animal well-being: There are many paths to enlightenment’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 36–37.
Singer, Peter: 1990, ‘The significance of animal suffering’,Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 9–12.
Skinner, B. F.: 1957,Verbal Behavior, Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Skinner, B. F.: 1981, ‘Selection by consequences’,Science 213, 501–504.
Solbrig, O. T., and Solbrig, D. J.: 1979,Introduction to Population Biology and Evolution, Addison-Wesley, London.
Suter, R.B., and Parkhill, V.S.: 1990, ‘Fitness consequences of prolonged copulation in the bowl and doily spider’,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 26, 369–373.
Thorpe, W. H.: 1974,Animal Nature and Human Nature, Methuen, London.
Toates, F.: 1990,Obsessional Thoughts and Behavior, Thorsons, Wellingborough.
Veenhoven, R.: 1984,Conditions of Happiness, Dordrecht, Holland.
Vyklický, L.: 1984, ‘Methods of testing pain mechanisms in animals’, in: P. D. Wall and R. Melzack, eds.Textbook of Pain, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.
Walker, Stephen: 1983,Animal Thought, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Watson, J. B.: 1913, ‘Psychology as the behaviorist views it’,Psychological Review 20, 158–177.
Weizsäcker, Carl C. von: 1965, ‘Existence of optimal programs of accumulation for an infinite time horizon’,Review of Economic Studies 32, 85–104.
Wiepkema, P. R., and P. W. M. van Adrichem, eds.: 1987,Biology of Stress in Farm Animals, Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht.
Wigglesworth, V. B.: 1980, ‘Do insects feel pain?’Antenna 4, 8–9.
Williams, G. C.: 1966, ‘Natural selection, the costs of reproduction, and a refinement of Lack's principle’,American Naturalist 100, 687–690.
Wilson, D. S.: 1980,The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities, Benjamin/Cummings, London.
Yoerg, S. L.: 1991, ‘Ecological frames of mind: the role of cognition in behavioral ecology’,Quarterly Review of Biology 66, 287–301.
I wish to thank S. E. G. Lea, F. M. Toates, and anonymous referees for very helpful comments. I have also benefited from the peer discussion of a preliminary version appearing electronically inPsycholoquy.
About this article
Cite this article
Ng, YK. Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering. Biol Philos 10, 255–285 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00852469
- Natural Selection