Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 07, 2006

U of G Symposium to Explore Whether Fish Perceive Pain

Issues surrounding which animal species really feel pain and experience suffering will be explored at a public lecture hosted by the University of Guelph July 14 at 2 p.m. in Room 156 of the Animal Sciences and Nutrition Building. The event is free and open to the public.

The “Are Fish Sentient?” symposium, organized by U of G’s Aquaculture Centre and the Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, will include two talks followed by informal discussion and debate at 5 p.m. in Gryphs Sports Lounge.

“Which animal species feel pain in a way that matters like it does to humans is an issue wrestled with by neuroscientists, philosophers and biologists alike,” said conference organizer Georgia Mason who holds a U of G Canada Research Chair in animal welfare. “It’s an issue that raises tough questions about what current scientific methods can actually measure and how we should treat food, research animals and pets.”

At 2 p.m., philosophy professor Gary Varner of Texas A&M University will discuss “Something Fishy? Animal Consciousness and Arguments by Analogy.” Varner wrote one of the first dissertations on environmental ethics and has since published a book and over 30 articles on related topics. His book, In Nature's Interests? Interests, Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics, examines the alleged divide between animal rights views and sound environmental policy. His published papers cover related topics in medical research, cloning, animal agriculture and human nutrition, and pet ownership. He is currently working on a second book, Sustaining Animals: Envisioning Humane Sustainable Communities.

At 3:45 p.m., Victoria Braithwaite, a behavioural biologist from Edinburgh University, will speak on “Can Fish Perceive Pain? And Do They Have the Capacity to Suffer?” Braithwaite specializes in fish behaviour, including their pain responses, and has published many scientific papers on animal cognition and navigation. By combining information about an animal's sensory and neural capabilities with information about its evolution and its environment, she hopes to gain a better understanding of how and why animals vary in their cognitive abilities and behaviour.

For more information, contact Prof. Rich Moccia at 519-824-4120, Ext. 56216, or

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt 519- 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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