Why is sentience an argument for animal advocates & vegans?

Jon

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Sentience is important because it confirms that animals are aware, emotional and feel pain and pleasure. Why does a dog wag it's tail and nuzzle if you stroke or pat it? Why is a bull in a bullring so aggressive, why do birds and other animals deliberately avoid us? A sheep will come willingly to the farmer but won't to a stranger. There are hundreds of ways in which to prove an animal is sentient. As regards the question ,should we keep dogs? I see no harm in that provided they are looked after properly and are happy to be with you. They are mans best friend after all. I know some people have a different view and I respect that. I've been vegan from birth for 79yrs this year and we've always had dogs. I wouldn't have missed their company and enjoyment they gave us for anything. I have a GSD right now who is 14yrs old on 1st June. If I hadn't had him after my wife passed away in 2019 I would have cracked up. He's been amazing. But he is the last dog I will have, as at my age, if I had another one it could outlive me and that wouldn't be fair.
 
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Lou

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I am impressed by this particular outcome, though it's not clear to me how far the concept extends at law in the UK. It seems strange to argue for sentience (whatever do they really mean?) and ban some activities but then turn a blind eye to say CAFO type systems. Clearly, sentience doesn't mean "like humans", it means "can feel some pain maybe". But nonetheless a bold move. Is it part of a global shift?
I'm not sure what the legislatures mean by "sentience". but whatever they think it means, the way the are creating prohibitions against some things and not others is at least inconsistent.

To me it represents a small step. Maybe even a shift. I'm optimistic that more small steps will follow.
 

Lou

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That's what I meant by leaving the door open to watering it down. Whether it is just a popular move, I wouldn't like to make a judgement on that. Lets hope the door is left open for improvement in the legislation, other wise it won't go far enough to be as effective as it should be. But at least it's a start.
It's good if "it's just a popular move". That is how legislation in a democracy is supposed to mostly work. The things they prohibited in the bill were pretty much the low hanging fruit. Popular ideas with little economic costs and little opposition.

I guess it's unreasonable of me to hope for more.

Also although it's just "a start", the wording just might open the door wider for animal rights activist.
 

Lou

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This is probably true, although I think its possible we hit a tipping point where social and economic pressures are suddenly on our side and change happens quickly after that. But in any case I'd emphasize that patience, necessary as it is, shouldn't decrease the sense of urgency we treat the issue with.

History pretty much agrees with that. Not sure this is the tipping point but it would be great if it was.
 

Tom L.

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To the original poster: I've seen "sentience" used different ways. As I understand it, "sentient" means the ability to feel... that is, to have subjective experiences. And they cannot do this if they don't have the capacity to be aware of anything.

Animal welfarists (at least some of them) appear to be okay with "using" animals, even to the point of killing and eating them, so long as the animals enjoy life while they are alive and die painlessly. Here's where I differ from them: from my observations of animals- the ones I've known personally, and the ones I've just observed- even insects- animals are sentient (as I used the term just above). I believe they would generally choose to live if they had a conception of "death" and "life". I believe that killing an animal- robbing them of the rest of the experiences they might have had- is harming them, just as surely as inflicting pain would be.
 
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Jon

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I'm not sure what the legislatures mean by "sentience". but whatever they think it means, the way the are creating prohibitions against some things and not others is at least inconsistent.

To me it represents a small step. Maybe even a shift. I'm optimistic that more small steps will follow.
I don't think it will go far enough but as you say, it's a small step in the right direction. I too cannot understand why they have omitted some other animals that are clearly sentient. It doesn't make sense unless they are being pressured by the Milk marketing board and other animal dealing organisations. All animals are sentient including most insects, where will they draw the line? If one is sentient then they all are. They would not have survived if they weren't. Instinct is one thing, sentience is totally different.
 
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Graeme M

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To the original poster: I've seen "sentience" used different ways. As I understand it, "sentient" means the ability to feel... that is, to have subjective experiences. And they cannot do this if they don't have the capacity to be aware of anything.

Animal welfarists (at least some of them) appear to be okay with "using" animals, even to the point of killing and eating them, so long as the animals enjoy life while they are alive and die painlessly. Here's where I differ from them: from my observations of animals- the ones I've known personally, and the ones I've just observed- even insects- animals are sentient (as I used the term just above). I believe they would generally choose to live if they had a conception of "death" and "life". I believe that killing an animal- robbing them of the rest of the experiences they might have had- is harming them, just as surely as inflicting pain would be.
This is the nub of my curiosity. Sentience, as I understand it, is simply the capacity to experience things. There is something it is like to be something sentient. But sentience doesn't have to BE very much to qualify. As you suggest, insects may very well be sentient. But many if not most insects don't feel pain. Sentience would be a basis for welfare legislation, otherwise we don't need welfare considerations, but not ALL sentience demands ALL possible forms of welfare protection. Luckily when it comes to cows and sheep and pigs we don't have to worry too much as we are fairly confident they have emotions and feel pain and can suffer (to an extent, anyway).

However sentience isn't full blown consciousness of the form humans possess. We are a singular divide away from other animals and can entertain broad and abstract concepts about the world as well as have self-awareness of a particular quality. For me, activists seem to regard "sentience" as almost akin to human consciousness, yet sentience at its simplest probably demands no duty of us at all. I accept sentience as a useful measure for welfare considerations, but it doesn't follow this means that extending welfare to rights is necessary.

That said, someone somewhere else explained to me how rights can emerge even from this simpler definition and that rights have great utility so I think that part of my curiosity is assuaged. Still, I think it's problematic for people to make claims about sentience that are likely not true in the case of other species. For example claiming that one should not kill an animal who wants to live. My guess is that other animals by and large do not even know they are alive, let alone that they can be killed. The issue of "wanting" to live is somewhat moot, as I see it (most organisms including plants have evolved mechanisms for remaining alive, they just don't think abut it). So I can see the value in awarding rights as a way of abstracting welfare considerations into globally applicable standards, but I'm not especially moved by appeals to extensive states of consciousness for other animals.

So I think there is a gulf of meaning between what an animal, especially an insect, actually has in mind and what we have in mind in regard to living and life and death. There is no point worrying at what an insect might choose to do were it human. That isn't the case and not something we need to address.
 

Jon

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This is the nub of my curiosity. Sentience, as I understand it, is simply the capacity to experience things. There is something it is like to be something sentient. But sentience doesn't have to BE very much to qualify. As you suggest, insects may very well be sentient. But many if not most insects don't feel pain. Sentience would be a basis for welfare legislation, otherwise we don't need welfare considerations, but not ALL sentience demands ALL possible forms of welfare protection. Luckily when it comes to cows and sheep and pigs we don't have to worry too much as we are fairly confident they have emotions and feel pain and can suffer (to an extent, anyway).

However sentience isn't full blown consciousness of the form humans possess. We are a singular divide away from other animals and can entertain broad and abstract concepts about the world as well as have self-awareness of a particular quality. For me, activists seem to regard "sentience" as almost akin to human consciousness, yet sentience at its simplest probably demands no duty of us at all. I accept sentience as a useful measure for welfare considerations, but it doesn't follow this means that extending welfare to rights is necessary.

That said, someone somewhere else explained to me how rights can emerge even from this simpler definition and that rights have great utility so I think that part of my curiosity is assuaged. Still, I think it's problematic for people to make claims about sentience that are likely not true in the case of other species. For example claiming that one should not kill an animal who wants to live. My guess is that other animals by and large do not even know they are alive, let alone that they can be killed. The issue of "wanting" to live is somewhat moot, as I see it (most organisms including plants have evolved mechanisms for remaining alive, they just don't think abut it). So I can see the value in awarding rights as a way of abstracting welfare considerations into globally applicable standards, but I'm not especially moved by appeals to extensive states of consciousness for other animals.

So I think there is a gulf of meaning between what an animal, especially an insect, actually has in mind and what we have in mind in regard to living and life and death. There is no point worrying at what an insect might choose to do were it human. That isn't the case and not something we need to address.
Noblesse Oblige.
 

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I suggest you look at What the Health on Netflix.

It covers the this issue and many others.

Animal protein causes disease and the industry is not sustainable for many reasons.

Imagine if animals got COVID 19 and this could infect preople through the food chain!

When thinking about a lot of virus and illnesses come from animal interaction.

Why be a loser and have second quality animal protein when you can have plant based protein
without the diseases that come from animal based protein?

Also the other program called Seaspiracy on Netflix also confirms that fish feel and remember!

Just wish humanity would wake up!
 

Jon

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I don't think that animals feel is anything new. I've known for nearly 80yrs. And I think most people who eat meat know it too but because they don't see the reality of the meat and dairy industry and only see the product on a supermarket shelf, they ignore what happens behind the scenes. And I genuinely think some people really don't know. Fish have a 7 second memory but can learn from repetition, also they have a herd memory the same as many other animals.
 

Tom L.

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This is the nub of my curiosity. Sentience, as I understand it, is simply the capacity to experience things. There is something it is like to be something sentient. But sentience doesn't have to BE very much to qualify. As you suggest, insects may very well be sentient. But many if not most insects don't feel pain. Sentience would be a basis for welfare legislation, otherwise we don't need welfare considerations, but not ALL sentience demands ALL possible forms of welfare protection. Luckily when it comes to cows and sheep and pigs we don't have to worry too much as we are fairly confident they have emotions and feel pain and can suffer (to an extent, anyway).
I think this is what makes animal-treatment issues so complicated sometimes. Most of us are probably confident that mammals and birds feel sensations (like pleasure and pain) and sense things very similarly- although of course there are differences: e.g., few animals have hearing as acute as a cetacean's or a bat's. But even insects have nervous systems and senses we can recognize as somewhat similar to ours., and they tend to seek out some stimuli and avoid others.
However sentience isn't full blown consciousness of the form humans possess. We are a singular divide away from other animals and can entertain broad and abstract concepts about the world as well as have self-awareness of a particular quality. For me, activists seem to regard "sentience" as almost akin to human consciousness, yet sentience at its simplest probably demands no duty of us at all. I accept sentience as a useful measure for welfare considerations, but it doesn't follow this means that extending welfare to rights is necessary.

I disagree that sentience demands no duty of us: this is one of the crucial differences (possibly the main one) between animals and other living things such as plants, fungi, and micro-organisms, and a commonly-stated outlook of animal advocates. I'm not sure if it was Jeremy Bentham who said this and don't know if I have the quote verbatim, but someone said something like: " the question is not whether (animals) think, but whether they can suffer?"... and I would add, "...or feel pleasure?"

..... For example claiming that one should not kill an animal who wants to live. My guess is that other animals by and large do not even know they are alive, let alone that they can be killed. The issue of "wanting" to live is somewhat moot, as I see it (most organisms including plants have evolved mechanisms for remaining alive, they just don't think abut it). So I can see the value in awarding rights as a way of abstracting welfare considerations into globally applicable standards, but I'm not especially moved by appeals to extensive states of consciousness for other animals.

Again, I would argue that it is irrelevant that animals do not know that they are alive (although I agree that they can't realize, as Descates did: "I think, therefor I am"... which I think is kinda-sorta your point, although maybe not exactly- i apologize if I'm misinterpreting). I'm arguing that an animal loses something they enjoy when they die, and that killing them does them harm for this reason- whether or not they can intellectually grasp this.