Skip to main content
Fish sentience denial: Muddying the waters
Animal Sentience
  • Lynne U. Sneddon, University of Liverpool
  • Javier Lopez-Luna, University of Liverpool
  • David C.C. Wolfenden, Blue Planet Aquarium
  • Matthew C. Leach, Newcastle University
  • Ana M. Valentim, Porto University
  • Peter J. Steenbergen, European Molecular Biology Laboratory
  • Nabila Bardine
  • Amanda D. Currie, Macalester College
  • Donald M. Broom, University of Cambridge
  • Culum Brown, Macquarie University
Publication Date

Recent empirical studies have reported evidence that many aquatic species, including fish, cephalopods and crustaceans, have the capacity for nociception and pain, and that their welfare should be taken into consideration. Some sceptics, rejecting the precautionary principle, have denied that any study demonstrates pain or other aspects of sentience in fish. This target article discusses some of the scientific shortcomings of these critiques through a detailed analysis of a study exploring nociception and analgesia in larval zebrafish.

Author Biography

Lynne U. Sneddon, Director, Bioveterinary Science, University of Liverpool, was one of the first to discover nociceptors that detect painful stimuli in fish. Her empirical studies drive the fish welfare agenda in many contexts.

Javier Lopez-Luna, postdoctoral researcher, specialises in fish welfare, behaviour and biology. His work aims at understanding the behavioural and physiological effects of pain and stress in different species including trout and zebrafish.

David C.C. Wolfenden M. Phil in ornamental fish welfare, is Curator at Blue Planet Aquarium, UK, where he is engaged in aquatic animal conservation and welfare research.

Matthew C. Leach, Newcastle University Pain & Animal Welfare Science Group, works on assessing and alleviating pain in mammals. Leach gauges pain noninvasively through the use of grimace scales.

Ana M. Valentim, postdoctoral researcher, Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, University of Porto, assesses anaesthesia in rodents and zebrafish.

Peter J. Steenbergen, helped develop behavioural tests to assess stress and fear in larval zebrafish and described the ability of buprenorphine to alleviate their response to noxious chemicals and electrical stimuli.

Nabila Bardine, developmental biologist interested in animal behaviour and welfare helps humans lower their stress levels and improve their wellbeing through holistic therapy.

Amanda D. Currie studied neuroscience at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she focused on developing a model of pain in zebrafish. She is now a student in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and plans to specialize in neurology.

Donald M. Broom, Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge University, has worked on sentience, sustainability and the welfare of a wide range of animals including fish.

Culum Brown, studies behavioural ecology of fishes with a special interest in cognition, personality and laterality. He is Associate Professor of vertebrate evolution at Macquarie University, Co-Editor of the volume Fish Cognition and Behavior, and Editor of the Journal of Fish Biology.

Citation Information
Lynne U. Sneddon, Javier Lopez-Luna, David C.C. Wolfenden, Matthew C. Leach, et al.. "Fish sentience denial: Muddying the waters" (2018)
Available at: