what is animal sentience

Sentience is one of the most important concepts to understand when talking about the treatment of other animals.

Sentience is a living being’s ability to perceive and feel things. An animal is sentient if it is capable of being aware of its surroundings, its relationships with others, and of sensations in its own body, including pain, hunger, heat or cold.

Why is sentience important?

A sentient animal has its own interests, including their own preferences and wants. They avoid pain, just like we do, and look for positive experiences.

In order to start thinking about animal ethics, students must have an understanding of why it’s important to treat animals with respect, kindness and moral consideration.

Learning about sentience is the first step in thinking about how we ought to treat animals that are used for human purposes.

Some of the reasons humans may use animals include:

  • Meat, dairy and eggs
  • Wool, fur, sheepskin and leather
  • Testing cosmetic and household products
  • Greyhound racing and horse racing
  • Zoos, marine parks and aquariums
  • Circuses and mobile animal farms
  • Animal dissections and chick hatching programs.

Most animals used for human purposes have less rights and protections than the average cat and dog. This opens up an ongoing debate about how animals like pigs, goats, chickens, cows, rats and hundreds of other species, ought to be treated.

Teachers can find a range of lesson plans on our website, which give students the opportunity to think critically and ethically about animal sentience. These lessons are designed to help students understand why it’s important to consider the interests of other animals.

Read more about animal sentience here.

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