Do octopuses, squids and crabs have emotions

(ORDO NEWS) — Octopuses can solve complex puzzles and show preferences for different individuals, but the question of whether they, as well as other animals and invertebrates, have emotions is the subject of heated debate and can shake the moral decisions of people, says an animal psychiatrist at the University of York.

Most countries do not recognize invertebrates such as octopuses, crabs, lobsters and crayfish as sentient beings capable of feeling pain, but the UK is considering amendments to animal welfare legislation that would.

“A report from the London School of Economics (LSE), commissioned by the UK government, has shown that there is fairly strong evidence that decapods and cephalopods are sentient,” says Christine Andrews, professor and philosopher at the University of York, mind of animals, which works with the LSE group.

Andrews, with Professor Frans de Waal, director of the Center for Living Connections at Emory University, wrote “A Question About Animal Emotions,” published today in the journal Science, which discusses the ethical and political issues involved in recognizing animals as sentient.

Andrews notes that Western culture has long believed that other animals do not feel pain or experience emotions. “It’s been a real fight to even get fish and mammals to be recognized under social security law as sentient. So what’s happening in the UK with invertebrates is pretty best practice.”

Non-verbal human infants were thought to feel no pain until at least the 1980s. Many still believe that animals, including invertebrates, do not feel pain and only unconsciously respond to negative stimuli.

However, studies of mammals, fish, octopuses and, to a lesser extent, crabs have shown that they avoid pain and dangerous places, and some animals, such as cows, show signs of empathy – they get upset when they see that their calf is in pain.

Recognition of the rationality of invertebrates opens up a moral and ethical dilemma. Humans can say how they feel, but animals don’t have the same tools for describing their emotions.

“However, the studies done so far provide strong evidence for their existence,” says Andrews, who is working on a research project called Animals and Morality.

“When we live ordinary lives, we try not to harm other beings. So it’s about retraining our worldview.” The question of exactly how to treat other animals remains open to research,” says Andrews.

“Currently, we do not have enough scientific data to know exactly what should be the correct treatment of certain types of animals. To determine this, we need closer collaboration between scientists and ethicists.”

Perhaps there will come a time when people will no longer be able to believe that crayfish, shrimp and other invertebrates do not feel pain and other emotions.

“If they can no longer be considered immune to the sensation of pain, invertebrate experiences will have to become part of the moral landscape of our species,” she says.

“But pain is just one of the morally significant emotions. Invertebrates like octopuses can also experience other emotions, such as curiosity to explore, attachment to particular individuals, or excitement about a future reward.”

Maybe it’s time to look at our world differently.


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