Scientists claim birds, fish, insects, and octopuses possess consciousness

Vertebrates and many invertebrates have consciousness and experience pain and other sensations. This is supported by eminent researchers in a Declaration on animal consciousness destined to rewrite history

A group of 39 leading scientists, including neurobiologists, psychologists, philosophers, and zoologists, have made a groundbreaking declaration regarding animal consciousness. This group asserts that not only primates and elephants but also birds, fish, insects, and octopuses exhibit signs of consciousness. This statement was made in the recently presented “New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness” at a conference held at New York University.

A revolutionary acknowledgment

The declaration is a revolutionary acknowledgment that reevaluates the capabilities of vertebrates and certain invertebrates, based on studies of cognitive behavior. Scientists believe there is a “realistic possibility” that all vertebrates, as well as some invertebrates, experience consciousness. The declaration highlights:

“Although uncertainty remains, some broad consensus has emerged. Firstly, there is strong scientific support for attributing conscious experience to other mammals and to birds. Secondly, empirical evidence suggests at least a realistic possibility of conscious experience in all vertebrates (including reptiles, amphibians, and fish) and in many invertebrates (including at least cephalopod mollusks, decapod crustaceans, and insects). Thirdly, when there is a realistic possibility of conscious experience in an animal, it is irresponsible to ignore such possibility in decisions that affect that animal.”

Phenomenal consciousness

Researchers particularly focused on phenomenal consciousness, which refers to experiences, mental states, and perceptions that can be partly described by natural sciences. Philosopher Thomas Nagel explores this concept in his famous essay, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” The scholars emphasize observed capacities in birds, fish, and cephalopods, such as memory, planning, problem-solving, and learning, which they argue indicate consciousness in these animals.

Implications for animal welfare

Acknowledging the phenomenal consciousness of less-studied animals means recognizing that these animals experience feelings, such as pain. This leads to a growing awareness of the risks associated with animal welfare. This extends beyond experimental use to include cruel practices in farming, such as facilities intended for octopus farming.

A call for further study and political action

The goal of the Declaration is to deepen this field of study with the support of additional scientists to guide political decisions to be more respectful of all animals.

“Politicians should adopt reasonable measures to mitigate the risks to the well-being of all vertebrates and many invertebrates while researchers work to improve our understanding,” concluded the researchers.

Source: The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness

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