Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


In his target article, Key (2016) reviews the neuroanatomy of human pain and uses what is known about human pain to argue that fish cannot experience pain. We provide three reasons why the conclusions reached by Key are unsupported. They consider (i) why it is not sufficient to conclude that only human neural structures can process conscious pain, (ii) why an understanding of pain in humans and non-human animals needs to be based within a framework of consciousness, and (iii) evidence already exists that fish treated with noxious stimuli lose the ability to perform normal behaviours: This was a behavioral proxy that Key proposed would provide good evidence for an animal to feel pain.

Author Biography

Victoria Braithwaite v.braithwaite@psu.edu is Professor of Fisheries and Biology at Penn State University. Her research focuses on animal cognition. She studies neurophysiology and behaviour to determine the mechanistic processes that influence animal behavior. She has researched and written about whether fish have the capacity for pain perception. http://bio.psu.edu/directory/vab12

Paula Droege pdroege@psu.edu is Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Penn State University. Her theories of consciousness propose an essential role for temporal representation in conscious states. She wrote Caging the Beast: A Theory of Sensory Consciousness and articles on the role of consciousness in memory, free will, and delusions. http://philosophy.la.psu.edu/directory/pud10