We outline a framework for evaluating scientific evidence of sentience, focusing on pain experience. It includes eight neural and cognitive-behavioural criteria, with confidence levels for each criterion reflecting the reliability and quality of the evidence. We outline the rationale for each criterion and apply our framework to a controversial sentience candidate: decapod crustaceans. We have either high or very high confidence that true crabs (infraorder Brachyura) satisfy five criteria, amounting to strong evidence of sentience. Moreover, we have high confidence that both anomuran crabs (infraorder Anomura) and astacid lobsters/crayfish (infraorder Astacidea) meet three criteria—substantial evidence of sentience. The case is, as yet, weaker for other infraorders, such as penaeid shrimps, highlighting important research gaps. Having demonstrated our framework’s application to decapod crustaceans, we hope that future research will apply it to other taxa.
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