Brazil-based animal rights organization Alianima recently delivered a statement of sentience in fish to Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, signed by 41 researchers, including biologists, veterinarians and national animal specialists. and international, attesting that fish are able to experience pain, fear and other feelings in the same way as other vertebrates. On the basis of this recognition of sentience, Alianima sought to reinforce the need for Brazilian regulations on the humane slaughter of fish, in addition to introducing strong axes of the welfare of fish in Brazilian fish farms; which remains a concept that is still in its infancy in terms of good practice. Our Declaration received excellent media coverage. Indeed, reports have appeared on Correio da Amazonia, Portal Agora TO, Observatorio ECO, Ambiental Mercantil and Revista Rural.
Declaration of Sentience in Fish
Sentience refers to the ability to feel, understand or perceive something through the senses. This understanding is a prerequisite for discussing the science of animal welfare. This means that sentient beings not only sense, observe, or react to things around them, but can also feel something in response. From an evolutionary standpoint, the ability to receive or possess impressions or sensations aids in the survival of species and so it is not surprising that it has evolved in humans and other animals, including fish. 2.
Fish are among the animals most used by humans, whether for consumption, scientific research, recreation or as pets. Around 1.5 trillion fish are captured from the wild and up to 167 billion are cultivated for human consumption each year worldwide (3). This number is about 25 times higher than all land animals slaughtered together, which translates to about 73 billion. In addition to the devastating impact on wild fish populations and the aquatic environment, fish rarely receive the same level of empathy or concern for their well-being as other animals. Although the results of public opinion polls indicate that the population believes that these animals have intelligence and emotions, and that they are capable of feeling pain, they demonstrate a lower degree in the recognition of the sentience of fish compared to other animals (5.6). Part of this problem is due to the huge gap between popular perception of fish consciousness and sentience and scientific reality. In addition to being phylogenetically distant from humans, relative to mammals, we cannot hear them vocalize and they lack recognizable facial expressions, which are primary clues to human empathy. 7.
Although the evolutionary and brain developmental trajectory of fish is different from that of other vertebrates, it is clear that there are many similar structures that perform similar functions in these animals. A body of anatomical, physiological, behavioral, evolutionary, and pharmacological evidence suggests that fish are able to experience pain, fear, and other feelings similarly to other vertebrates, and that their perception and cognitive abilities often match, or exceed, those of other vertebrates. (7.8). Fish have good memories, live in complex social communities where they accompany other individuals and can learn from each other. In addition to cooperating with each other, they are able to build complex structures, use tools, and use the same methods to control quantities as we humans are. More often than not, their primary senses are as good as ours and in many cases even better. In addition, the brain structures that transmit pain in other vertebrates are also found in fish, indicating that they are able to sense and consciously react to various potentially harmful stimuli from the environment, usually accompanied by a reflex withdrawal response, favoring their survival.(11,12).
The recognition, that humans are not the only animals with neurological structures that generate consciousness, resulted in the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, published in 2012 at the University of Cambridge, which presents the conclusion of a group of neuroscientists on the subject (13). Therefore, it is accepted what has been denied for so long: that many animals, including all mammals, birds and invertebrates like octopus, exhibit consciousness. Two years later, the Curitiba Declaration, signed by experts of national and international reputation, reinforces the idea that non-human animals are sentient beings and, as such, cannot be treated as things (14).
Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness of a non-human vertebrate, the abundant evidence of behavioral and cognitive sophistication and pain perception in fish suggests that we should modify our behavior and guarantee fish the same level of protection as that afforded to any other vertebrate.(7). From an animal welfare and ethical standpoint, if an animal is sensitive it can probably be in pain and therefore should be given some kind of protection. However, when managing and slaughtering fish, it is common to perform practices without prior desensitization to avoid unnecessary suffering and pain. (15). With this in mind, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has published the Aquatic Animal Health Code, which provides standards to improve the health of aquatic animals around the world, including standards for welfare. farmed fish and the use of antimicrobial agents in aquatic animals.( 16). The document serves as a basis to help the competent authorities of all signatory countries, including Brazil, to prepare relevant legislation and standards.
I therefore declare that I agree with the above clarification. The recognition of fish as sentient beings generates the need to integrate concern for their well-being. The diagnosis of a very low level of welfare also interferes with the final quality of the product and is associated with economic losses for the producer (17). Therefore, understanding a fish's ability to feel pain and suffering is especially important in relation to how it is treated. Thus, the debate on animal consciousness and sentience is extremely relevant to sensitize populations and urge the establishment of direct actions related to the well-being of these beings in all fields, whether educational, scientific, legislative. or productive.
"The question is not 'can they reason?' nor 'can they talk?' but rather 'can they suffer?' - Jeremy Bentham (1789).
(Biologist, Master in Cellular and Molecular Biology)
(Veterinarian, Doctorate in Animal Welfare)
(Zootechnician, Master in Animal Welfare)
(Veterinarian, doctorate in veterinary sciences)
(Zootechnician, Doctorate in animal welfare)
(Veterinarian, specialist in veterinary medicine, collective and legal veterinary medicine)
(Biologist, PhD in biotechnology)
- Julia Eumira Gomes Neves Perini
(Veterinarian, Doctor of Animal Welfare and Professor at the Federal Institute of Brasilia)
(Zootechnician, Director of FAI Farms do Brasil)
(Veterinarian and zootechnician, director of the Aquatic Animal Alliance)
(Zootechnician, Doctor of Animal Welfare and Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
- Guilherme Maino de Azevedo
(Zootechnician, Animal behavior specialist)
- Thai Vaz Oliveira
(Veterinarian, animal behavior specialist)
- Anne Elise Landine Ferreira
(Biologist, Master in Behavioral and Animal Biology)
(Zootechnician, doctor in animal welfare, professor at the Federal Rural University of the Amazon and at the Faculty of Higher Education of the Amazon.
(Zootechnician, doctor in animal welfare and professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso)
(Zootechnician, responsible for sustainable agriculture at World Animal Protection Brazil)
(Biologist, Doctorate in Zoology, University of Oxford)
(Zootechnician, Ph.D. in animal welfare and professor at the University of Calgary - Canada)
- Karen Camille Rocha Gois
(Zootechnician, Doctorate in animal welfare)
(Co-founder and COO of the Fish Welfare Initiative)
(Agricultural engineer, doctorate in animal welfare and professor at the University of São Paulo)
(Veterinarian, director of F&S Consulting)
(Anthropologist, Doctor of Psychology and Professor of Animal Welfare at New York University)
(Biologist, PhD in Fish Behavior, Professor at Macquarie University - Australia and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Fish Biology)
(Veterinarian, Doctorate in Animal Behavior and Welfare)
- Rosângela Poletto
(Veterinarian, Doctor of Animal Sciences, Professor at the Federal Institute of Rio Grande do Sul and member of the Scientific Committee of Certified Animals)
- Maria Joseph Hötzel
(Veterinarian, doctorate in animal sciences, professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina)
(Veterinarian, specialist in animal welfare and master's degree in animal nutrition)
- Carla Molento
(Veterinarian, Doctor of Animal Welfare and Professor at the Federal University of Paraná)
- Aline Cristina Sant'Anna
(Biologist, doctor in animal welfare and professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora)
(Biologist, doctor of zoology, specialist in science journalism and member of EGF (Fish Ethology and Welfare Group)
- Maurizelia by Brito Silva
(Head of the Conservation Unit of the Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity / MMA)
(Biologist, doctor in aquaculture and professor at the Federal Technological University of Paraná)
(Zootechnicist, Master in Animal Sciences, consultant at BEA Consultoria)
(Veterinarian, specialist in economics and sustainability management)
- Vania de Fátima Plaza Nunes
(Veterinary medicine, specialist in animal behavior and welfare, public health, health surveillance, ecology and environmental education, homeopathy and forensic veterinary medicine)
(Veterinarian, Doctor of Veterinary Sciences and Professor at the Federal Institute of Southeast Minas Gerais)
(Veterinarian, Doctor of Fish Welfare)
- Karynn Capile
(Veterinarian, doctorate in bioethics)
- Bus from Lizie Pereira Buss
(Veterinarian, President of the Ethics, Bioethics and Animal Welfare Committee of the CRMV-DF and Federal Auditor for Agricultural Taxation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply)
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