Lynne U. Sneddon, Javier Lopez-Luna, David C.C. Wolfenden, Matthew C. Leach, Ana M. Valentim, Peter J. Steenbergen, Nabila Bardine, Amanda D. Currie, Donald M. Broom, and Culum Brown, Fish sentience denial: Muddying the waters


The majority of commentaries are supportive of our position on the scepticism that muddies the waters surrounding fish pain and sentience. There is substantial empirical evidence for pain in fish. Animals’ experience of pain cannot be compared to artificial intelligence (AI) because AI can only mimic responses to nociceptive input on the basis of human observations and programming. Accepting that fish are sentient would not be detrimental to the industries reliant on fish. A more proactive discussion between scientists and stakeholders is needed to improve fish welfare for the benefit of all.

Author Biography

Lynne U. Sneddon, Director of Bioveterinary Science, University of Liverpool, was one of the first scientists to discover nociceptors that detect painful stimuli in fish. Sneddon has published empirical studies that drive the fish welfare agenda in many contexts. Website

David C.C. Wolfenden, M.Phil in ornamental fish welfare, Curator at Blue Planet Aquarium, UK, is engaged in aquatic animal conservation and welfare research. Wolfenden is also a freelancer for ornamental-fish-keeping magazines and has authored chapters on fish welfare. Website

Matthew C. Leach is member of the Pain & Animal Welfare Science Group at Newcastle University, which is internationally recognised for work on assessing and alleviating mammalian pain. Leach's current work gauges pain noninvasively through the use of grimace scales. Website

Ana M. Valentim, post-doctoral researcher at the Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Porto University, is specialised in Laboratory Animal Science. She studies anaesthesia side effects to refine anaesthesia in rodents and zebrafish models. Website

Peter J. Steenbergen has developed behavioural tests to assess stress and fear in in larval zebrafish. He described the ability of buprenorphine to alleviate the response of zebrafish larvae to chemical and electrical noxious stimuli. Website

Nabila Bardine is a developmental biologist with a keen interest in animal behaviour and welfare. She is now a holistic therapist who helps people to lower their level of stress and gain wellbeing. Website

Donald M. Broom is Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge University. His work has concerned sentience, sustainability and the welfare of a wide range of animals including fish. Website

Culum Brown, Associate Professor of vertebrate evolution at Macquarie University, is Co-Editor of Fish Cognition and Behavior and Editor of the Journal of Fish Biology. He studies behavioural ecology of fishes with a special interest in cognition, personality and laterality. Website