As a researcher, I’m delighted by the long-awaited rise of scientific interest in animal emotions (“Animal Passions,” April). I have no doubt that our fellow vertebrates, including fish, lead conscious lives colored by a range of survival- enhancing emotional experiences.
Currently, our treatment of animals lags way behind our emergent knowledge of their awareness and feelings. More than 90 percent of the animals used in experiments are rodents, who, as Dr. Panksepp has shown, are capable of experiencing pain as well as play and laughter. But in laboratories, we thwart these animals’ physical and psychological needs, including hiding, foraging and seeking compatible partners. Our next step is to apply empathy to our relationship with other animals.
Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Sussex Publishers, Inc.
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