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The changing concept of animal sentience

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A brief history of the concept of sentience is given. It is pointed out that the idea of sentience, at least in the mammals and birds, was accepted by lay people by the time of the Renaissance and before it was acknowledged by philosophers. It was not until the Enlightenment of the 18th century that philosophers started to accept the notion that animals have feelings. Towards the end of the 19th century, scientists and philosophers had developed a fairly sophisticated concept of sentience. Little consideration was given to sentience by scientists through much of the 20th century due to the inhibiting influence of Behaviourism. In the last quarter of the 20th century, there was a surge of interest in animal sentience, and animal welfare scientists quickly realised that welfare problems can be better tackled with an understanding of how animals feel. Methods to investigate indirectly how animals feel are described and areas requiring further elucidation are listed.


Megan Kendall

Purdue University

Date 2006
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 100
Issue 1-2
Pages 11-19
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2006.04.011
Language English
Notes This article added with permission from Elsevier
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Ian J.H. Duncan (2013), "The changing concept of animal sentience,"

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  1. Animal welfare
  2. Emotions
  3. Feel
  4. Health
  5. Methodologies
  6. sentience
  7. Social Environments