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Foundations of Animal Sentience

Objective

The goal of ASENT is to construct solid conceptual and methodological foundations for the science of animal sentience.

The term sentience refers to an animal’s subjective experience of the world and of its own body. In recent years, an interdisciplinary community of animal sentience researchers, drawn from neuroscience, comparative psychology, evolutionary biology, animal welfare science and philosophy, has begun to emerge. However, the field is characterized by foundational controversy over the nature of sentience and the criteria for its attribution, leading to heated debate over the presence or absence of sentience in fish and in invertebrates such as cephalopods and arthropods.

ASENT aims to find ways to resolve these debates, enabling researchers to move beyond the impasses that result from deep foundational disagreement. What is needed is a conceptual framework for thinking about sentience as an evolved phenomenon that varies along several dimensions, a deeper understanding of how these dimensions of sentience relate to measurable aspects of animal behaviour and the nervous system, and a richer picture of the links between sentience, welfare and the ethical status of animals.

ASENT will answer this need by providing:
1. An account of the basic functional capacities involved in sentience, and an evaluation of which capacities justify us in regarding an animal as a sentience candidate.
2. An overarching conceptual framework for understanding the dimensions along which sentience varies across the animal kingdom, based on distinguishing multiple structural properties of sentience;
3. A scheme of proposed experimental tests for constructing a species’ most likely sentience profile with reference to these dimensions, implemented with scientific collaborators using bees as a test case.
4. An assessment of which dimensions of sentience are most relevant to animal welfare and to the ethical status of animals.
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Host institution

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

Address

Houghton Street 1
Wc2a 2ae London

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 469 188

Beneficiaries (3)

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LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 1 469 188

ROYAL HOLLOWAY AND BEDFORD NEW COLLEGE

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 16 112,25

QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 14 563,75

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 851145

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 January 2020

  • End date

    31 December 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 499 864

  • EU contribution

    € 1 499 864

Hosted by:

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

United Kingdom