In a historic moment for animal advocacy, nearly 40 researchers publicly asserted that animal sentience deserves to be recognized — by signing “The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness.”

Sentience is typically understood as the ability to experience a spectrum of emotions including joy, suffering, and fear. Research in the last five years has demonstrated that many species — including fish, insects, and crustaceans — have inner lives or sentience.

The evidence is overwhelming: Fish species form intricate social structures and display social behaviors. Bees are able to work through memories while sleeping. Octopuses have the capacity to figure out how to solve a problem by using memory and prediction skills. All of these species deserve protection.

“When there is a realistic possibility of conscious experience in an animal, it is irresponsible to ignore that possibility in decisions affecting that animal,” the declaration states. “We should consider welfare risks and use the evidence to inform our responses to these risks.”

Jonathan Birch, a professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and a principal investigator on the Foundations of Animal Sentience project is one of the declaration’s signatories who weighed in on the matter.

“This has been a very exciting 10 years for the study of animal minds,” Jonathan Birch said. “People are daring to go there in a way they didn’t before and to entertain the possibility that animals like bees and octopuses and cuttlefish might have some form of conscious experience.”

Other signees include Peter Singer and Jonathan Balcombe — researchers whose work has contributed to the animal rights movement by arguing that animals feel and should not suffer unnecessarily. Balcombe’s work has demonstrated that fish feel pain — as well as a myriad of other emotions.

The acknowledgment of animal sentience, from mammals to insects, could help transform the way wild, domesticated, and farmed animals are treated worldwide.

Recognition of octopus sentience has helped lead to legislation protecting the clever animals from being farmed in the U.S. — such as a ban on octopus farming in the state of Washington which Lady Freethinker advocated for on the basis of octopus sentience. Lady Freethinker will continue to call on lawmakers to make change for animals around the world.

Lady Freethinker applauds every scientist who signed The Declaration on Animal Consciousness for advocating for compassion for all species.