Is there a consciousness of animals? Are animals aware of their suffering? Believe it or not, many of us have asked ourselves that question at least once. So we can safely say that anyone who has ever owned or loved a pet is 100% sure of the answer to this question.
However, what does neuroscience say on this subject? Does science actually confirm and support the fact that animals have consciousness of their own and that they are aware of what is going on inside them? In other words, can we talk about the consciousness of animals?
Neuroscience has more than conclusive evidence that all mammals, birds and other species are aware of their own suffering. Consciousness is also not a recent topic. In 2012, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness raised this issue.
Researchers have identified similar circuits in humans and animals whose activity coincides with conscious experience. So it seems that the neural circuits that are activated when an animal feels an emotion are the same as in humans.
Renowned neurologists around the world support this study. They agree that animals are aware of their own suffering.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
On July 7, 2012, a group of renowned scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. This document states that not only humans but also a significant number of animals including the vertebrates and invertebrates are sentient beings.
This means that they are aware of their experiences. In addition, they can also have positive or negative mental states. There is scientific consensus on the evidence. This evidence demonstrates that animals possess neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological underlays of conscious states.
These go hand in hand with the ability to display goal-oriented behaviors. So, in fact, humans are not the only ones possessing neural underlays that give rise to consciousness.
Philip Low is the founder and CEO of the California neurodiagnostic company NeuroVigil. Christof Koch works at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Brain Science and David Edelman at the La Jolla Neurosciences Institutes. These scientists and other leading neuroscientists have signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.
It has been confirmed that the ability to have positive and negative experiences is key to awakening a being.
Recent animal awareness studies
Many studies continue to confirm these facts. In 2016, Jarrod Bailey and Shiranee Pereira proposed a study on the brain circuits associated with emotions and empathy in dogs. This study confirms and extends the conclusions of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.
The INRA, together with the European Food Safety Authority, also conducted a study into animal awareness. In 2017, they presented the results to the public in Parma, Italy.
This research work supports the fact that animals are equipped with nervous systems that support conscious processes of complex information.
This includes the negative emotions caused by cruel stimuli. This study analyzed several species including primates, corvids, rodents and ruminants.
The researchers concluded that animals with autobiographical memories such as primates, corvids and rodents may have desires and goals that extend into the past and into the future. As a result, they can be deeply moved by terrible experiences.
Animal consciousness is real
The people who mistreat animals defend their actions by saying that animals don’t feel anything. However, we have seven years worth of solid evidence about animal consciousness. Moreover, there is a multitude of studies that support this statement. So this is no longer an excuse to justify the abuse of animals.
Then why all those people who treat animals as objects, mistreat them and abuse them in different ways? They will therefore have to look for other arguments to defend themselves. After all, science does not support them in the least.
The regulations on animal rights, the protection of animals and the welfare of animals have also had a huge legal impact. All the studies and evidence we’ve listed here have actually been turned into law.
The study of human consciousness is complicated. Nevertheless, it seems that from now on it will be studied together with the consciousness of animals.