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Animal sentience and human values

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The science of animal welfare provides an important context in which to consider the role ethical values should, or should not, play in setting appropriate burdens of proof. For example, if animals of a particular species can feel pain, but we fail to accept that they can feel pain when formulating animal welfare regulations, negative welfare consequences are likely to ensue. This has led a number of animal welfare scientists to argue that, with respect to contested invertebrate taxa such as cephalopods, decapods and cyclostomes, the precautionary principle should be applied and the burden of proof should be set intentionally low. However, this proposal has met with resistance from the biomedical research community. I offer a philosophical perspective on this controversy, and I attempt to extract some wider lessons regarding the relationship between science and values.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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