Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


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


The plight of fishes has almost certainly got worse since Bentham (1789) coined the phrase “The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but Can they suffer?” Despite the fact that fishes are increasingly recognised as sentient animals worthy of protection under animal welfare legislation in many countries around the world, fishing practices are almost universally exempt activities. The human population continues to grow, and, surprisingly, per capita intake of fish is still increasing (FAO 2020). The source of this fish is not wild stocks (catches of which have remained more or less stagnant for decades after we pillaged the oceans), but rather from a huge increase in aquaculture production. Aquaculture is currently experiencing a rapid industrialisation phase reminiscent of that seen in terrestrial food production systems over the last century. There is an urgent need for the animal welfare developments of the past 50 years that were established for terrestrial food production systems to be applied to aquaculture. Given these facts, one alarming question presents itself: Who is looking after the welfare of fishes in the context of commercial fishing and aquaculture?

Creative Commons License

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

Author Biography

Culum Brown, 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