Suffering Of Animals

Suffering is a general term used in referring to animals who may be experiencing adverse physiological and mental states such as pain, * discomfort, fear,* distress,* frustration, boredom (see ANIMAL BOREDOM), torment, or grief. It is possible for an individual to suffer without pain—for example, an individual who constantly fears something—and to experience pain without suffering—for example, when one pinches oneself. In humans, suffering is recognized as having the dimension of mental processing involving awareness of self in relation to that physical state and reflects the integration of earlier experiences and future desires with the adverse state(s) being experienced. There is increasing evidence that animals other than humans have this ability, particularly the great apes, some other nonhuman primates, and perhaps other mammals (and even other vertebrates), but to date there is little empirical evidence for this.

Assessment of suffering is difficult in animals because they cannot directly communicate through a common language, and so it is based on careful observations of animal behavior and clinical signs. Such signs can be observed accurately and are either nonparametric or parametric. Nonpara-metric signs are observable as being present or absent but are not measurable on a continuum, as with parametric signs. Examples of nonparametric signs include harsh coat, runny eyes, hangdog look, eyes half open, diarrhea, lameness, hopping lame, and changes in behavior such as changes from docility to aggression or from quiet to vocalizing on approach. Parametric signs are measurable on a continuum and include body weight, body temperature, heart rate, or rate of breathing. Such an assessment of animal suffering is only possible when the normal physiological parameters and behavior of that individual animal or strain (breed) or species are well known. When these parameters have been established, one can estimate fairly objectively how far an animal has deviated from normality and what an animal may be feeling, and so begin to assess the level of suffering. Generalizing from human experiences in a similar condition to nonhuman animals also guides one to look for signs an animal may show, but has to take into account relevant biological differences between humans and animals. This approach has been termed critical anthropomorphism.*

Selected Bibliography. DeGrazia, D., and A. Rowan, Pain, Suffering, and Anxiety in Animals and Humans, Theoretical Medicine 12 (1991): 193-211; Fitzgerald, M., Neurobiology of Foetal and Neonatal Pain, in Patrick Wall and Ronald Melzack (Eds.), Textbook of Pain, 3rd ed. (London: Churchill Livingstone, 1994), 153-163; Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources and National Research Council, Committee on Pain and Distress in Laboratory Animals, Recognition and Alleviation of Pain and Distress in Laboratory Animals (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992); International Association for the Study of Pain, Guidelines on Painful Experiments: Report of the International Association for the Study of Pain Subcommittee on Taxonomy, Pain 6 (1979): 249-252; Melzack, R., and P. Wall, The Challenge of Pain (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1982); Morton, D. B., Recognition and Assessment of Adverse Effects in Animals, in N. E. Johnson (Ed.), Proceedings ofAnimals in Science Conference: Perspectives on Their Use, Care, and Welfare (Melbourne, Australia: Monash University, 1995), 131-148; Morton, D. B., and P. H.M. Griffiths, Guidelines on the Recognition of Pain, Distress, and Discomfort in Experimental Animals and an Hypothesis for Assessment, Veterinary Record 116 (1985): 431-436.

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