«October 2009 SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR Pierre Le Neindre, Senior research scientist, INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) ...»
Animal pain, a multidisciplinary approach Specific questions were raised about pain so as to be able to treat the topic in an objective manner and the phenomenon as an identifiable and measurable psychobiological element. However several difficulties were encountered. The first factor is that scientific knowledge about pain is as yet little-developed. The recognition and taking into account of pain in human medicine - and even more so in veterinary medicine - are only recent. The second is that animals do not speak and can neither signal nor describe their pain, which can therefore only be Expertise scientifique collective "Douleurs animales" 5 assessed by humans as external observers. From this arises a third obstacle related to the public debate about animal pain, a debate that involves cultural, ethical and religious components which modulate or exacerbate perceptions.
The questions raised focus on all phases of animal life from birth to slaughter. They revolve around three main themes: Firstly, what definition should be given to animal pain? What does it encompass in comparison to related concepts, such as stress or suffering? Can we say that animals are more or less likely to feel pain according to their degree of phylogenetic evolution? How should pain be assessed? Using what criteria, with which tools and what reliability? Finally, how is pain treated on farms today and what are the limits to it being dealt with?
Treatment of the questions addressed to the ESCo Prior to an examination of the neurophysiological dimension of pain, it became apparent that to situate correctly the current debate on pain, it should be examined in a historical perspective. The genesis of the debate was retraced and the various, ethical, legal, economic and cultural elements clarified so as to examine under what terms the question is framed today.
The concept of pain was examined by crossing the acquired knowledge about pain in human medicine and in veterinary medicine. This comparative approach enables a better definition and appreciation of the specificity of the phenomenon of pain in animals.
The ability to measure pain in animals using reliable criteria, and, if possible, by means which can be applied in the field, is clearly a central issue for the ESCo. This would allow not only the identification and characterisation of the phenomenon of pain, thus demonstrating its existence, but also the consideration of ways to treat it.
Two chapters of this report are more specifically devoted to pain in animals in livestock farming. The assessment focused on a non-exhaustive list of situations in rearing and slaughtering livestock that are likely to cause pain and, where possible, alternative handling procedures which would minimize or eliminate pain.
Methods and Scope of the ESCo The experts conducted a critical analysis of some 1400 scientific articles from which they extracted and assembled data that were useful in casting light on the questions raised. The aim of this exercise was to expose not only the areas of consensus, but also the gaps, uncertainties and controversies in the field of knowledge. The stakes are high in this area of recent research, which involves a wide range of disciplines. The rapid changes are stimulated by the recognition of more and more neurological capacities in animals and by the pressure of public debate. In addition, the ESCo assessment provides keys to understanding the questions posed, both in terms of definitions, concepts and ideas and in recalling the biological mechanisms involved. The assessment outlines the conceptual framework that will allow structured analysis and facilitate the appropriation by the public players involved in the debate.
The skills put to work on this report originate from a wide range of disciplines in the domains of the human, social and economic sciences (history, anthropology, philosophy, ethics, law and economics) and the life sciences (neurophysiology, human clinical, veterinary medicine, genetics and ethology). The expert scientific assessment brought together around twenty experts from INRA and other research establishments (Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Collège de France, CNRS, veterinary schools) both in France and from abroad.
The ESCo report does not provide turnkey solutions to respond to practical questions on animal pain. It establishes the most complete diagnosis possible on the current state of knowledge about pain in farm animals and indicates options for action that are available to reduce it.
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1. The Question of animal pain: the issues for debate The occurrence, reduction and prevention of animal pain may seem at first to be the concern of experts in the natural sciences and veterinary medicine. However, the issue of animal pain concerns all and this has led to a debate in society at large. The resulting range of diverse and often antagonistic points of view also requires the inputs of social scientists. The objective of this chapter is to clarify the issues around this debate by firstly retracing the history of man’s perception of pain and suffering in animals and secondly by outlining the stages in the development of this contemporary issue.
This debate encompasses many disciplines in the fields of human and social sciences because the question concerns not only animals it also concerns the relationship between animals and humans, whose actions may cause, relieve or aggravate pain and suffering in animals. More broadly speaking, it is apparent that the issue is linked to the philosophical idea of man’s moral responsibility for animals.
For western societies and particularly French society, modern ideas on pain and suffering in animals developed alongside a growing sensitivity to physical suffering in humans and particularly ourselves, but in general in all sentient beings so that the right to freedom from pain was progressively extended to all sentient creatures.
Expert analysis of the published literature reviewed by our committee has led to the identification of three stages in the development of current views on pain and suffering in animals. The first is the relationship between man and animals in traditional societies and the gradual recognition in the 19th and 20th centuries that animals are sentient beings and suffer accordingly. The second period saw a heightened debate on man’s moral responsibility to animals as a consequence of this recognition. The third covers the last thirty years during which there has been a marked acceleration in investigating animal pain and the implementation of changes that reduce pain in animals.
1.1. The role of animals in traditional societies
1.1.1. Men and animals, “Mixed Communities” Since the Neolithic period animals have always been present in human communities with consequent social connections established between man and animals. Anthropologists have highlighted the great diversity in the nature of these connections. They ranged from the protection of herds against wild animals through to hunting and fishing and from companionship, through to assistance with labour and to raising livestock to provide clothing and food for humans. These relationships, which could be the source of either pain or well-being for either party, show that animals were treated as members of a “hybrid society”, to borrow an expression commonly used by researchers, meaning the animals fully integrated into human communities. The function and the status of the animals in the hybrid community were immediately determined by the differences in their physical, behavioural and social characteristics.
Anthropological analysis describes the way ordinary people can use analogy to understand animals by perceiving animals as being more or less similar to man. In the popular imagination animals are credited with having feelings, intentions, thoughts, virtues and failings similar to ourselves. These anthropomorphic images are perpetuated in everyday language: the dog “wants” to go out, he “loves” his master, a bee is “industrious” and the wolf “cruel”.
Likewise, humans are, or can be, compared to animals. This zoomorphism can be added to anthropomorphism and this double play of analogies exposes not only the differences between men and animals but also among people and among animals. From the human perspective animals are living beings as we humans are so we can use the same terms in thinking about them as we use to think of ourselves. There are differences among animals, just as there are differences between humans and animals. This gives rise to a wide variation in the nature of interactions that develop between man and animal and the resulting communication is an exchange between one living being and another.
As far as farm animals are concerned, their relationship with humans encompasses domestication, which ethologists define as a state or process that enables populations of animals to live and reproduce in environments imposed by man. The development of different breeds with their particular morphological characteristics can only be explained by human intervention whereby animals are selected for useful characteristics. This selection covers Expertise scientifique collective "Douleurs animales" 7 a wide range of breeding objectives ranging from the production of food or clothing for humans to other breeding objectives that are far more difficult to characterise objectively, for example; social relationships or conformity with socio-cultural perceptions that go beyond the requirements of farming.
Almost all domestication has been of social species, and therefore all the consequences of the social hierarchy and dominance within the group have had to be dealt with. In fact, domestication only became possible because man was able to benefit from the social nature of certain species. Domesticated animals not only relate to each other and with their environment. They can also maintain a relationship with the humans who rear them and care for them, a relationship that is based on an exchange of goods, services and affection. Without any vocal exchange a negotiation of some kind takes place between man and domestic animals. Through mutual learning an arrangement emerges whereby the attitude of one is adapted to the expectations of the other and to which some authors attribute the notion of a “contract”.
Treating animals as subsidiary members of the human community places them in an admittedly, hierarchical and unequal relationship, but one that has made it possible to characterize each species according to the role they fulfil.
This long coexistence has produced norms that vary according to time and place but that have for each particular norm, enabled the description of what constitutes a good cow, a good bull, a good (cart-drawing) team or a good dog as well from the human side, a good breeder, a good cart driver and a good shepherd.
In traditional farming, animals were not treated like people. They were put to death either to provide food or because they were no longer useful. But for all that, even though they were sometimes ill-treated, they were not simply considered as objects. There was a widely-held interest in their health and welfare.
1.1.2. The animal in the classical philosophical tradition A particularly relevant reference to the position of animals in society is the theory of Descartes who, by drawing analogies between the functioning of animals and robots, proposed the existence of an unbridgeable gap between man and the animals. According to Descartes, only man has an immortal soul. Animals are merely machines devoid of any feeling and thus can be considered as objects, open to manipulation and use. It should be noted that it was only after Descartes that his conception of animals as objects, largely hypothetical in his mind, achieved the status of a practical dogma.
The popularity of Descartes proposal, however, did not replace an enduring tradition that had roots in antiquity with Plutarch and Lucretius and that was continued by Montaigne, Rousseau and Adam Smith. This tradition leads us to the view that man has a duty of care towards living things, whether they are animals or even plants. The ability to feel and express mental states such as pain, suffering and pleasure is common to humans and animals. We must therefore treat animals as sentient beings and show them respect.
Equally, part of Christian thought considers that God entrusted man with the wise use of nature. As the guardian of nature man is accountable to God for what is done to the creatures that surround him.
Spurred on by scientific discoveries during the 18th century, particularly the progress in comparative anatomy that revealed the closeness of man and the animals, philosophical criticism overturned the precepts of Cartesian theory.
Indeed, as Descartes himself had postulated, if animals can be considered as machines then the human body must also be a machine because it, too, is an animal body. At the same time the sharp distinction between the notions of instinct and reason was questioned and the fact that sentient feeling is common to both man and animals was pointed out.
It was also during this century in England, and a little later in France, that a new feeling arose and along with it demands for social control of emotional outbursts, in particular violent impulses. This feeling led middle class people from these countries to condemn cruelty to animals. From a political standpoint, this condemnation came from conservatives, concerned with moral order, as well as from liberals, who linked protection of animals with democratic empowerment.
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1.2. The development of the modern view of animal pain 1.2.1. A history of animal pain as mirrored by human pain Recognizing human pain and taking it into account Until the turn of the 19th century a certain degree of indifference was shown toward human pain, especially by the medical community. In deeply Christian societies, pain, that of Christ the Redeemer, the Christian martyr and the condemned, was valued positively. In the widespread tradition of French clinical medicine it was considered more as a guide diagnosis of disease than as an evil to be averted. Concomitantly the philosophical theory of vitalism was expanding. According to this theory, pain was a force-of-life reaction, a step in the healing process that should not be hindered. In addition, pain had been long considered as an exemplary means of punishment, such as in school corporal punishment. It was also seen as promoting masculinity notably in the military.