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Invited Commentary


Andrew N. Rowan, Joyce M. D'Silva, Ian J.H. Duncan, and Nicholas Palmer, Animal sentience: history, science, and politics


Donald Griffin’s writings, beginning with The Question of Animal Awareness (1976), strove to persuade scientists to study the possibility of animal sentience, the basis of Rowan et al.’s efforts to promote animal well-being. Facing great hostility (but also some acceptance) for his ideas, Griffin initially avoided animal welfare advocacy, fearing it would further undermine his efforts to gain recognition of animal sentience. In later years, however, he began to ponder the ethical implications of animal sentience, intending to study wild elephants’ communication and social behavior to better understand their experienced life and apply it to improving conservation methods. As he recognized, ethical considerations require strategic prioritizing.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Author Biography

Carolyn A. Ristau is a cognitive ethologist whose research includes field studies of cognition and communication in primates and plovers as well as explorations of human conflicts, community, and conservation, predominantly in Africa. She is writing a biography of the revolutionary cognitive biologist, Donald R. Griffin, founder of Cognitive Ethology. Website