Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: opinion on LSE Study on Cephalopod and Decapod Sentience – letter of 12 April 2022 to Cabinet Secretary

Letter from the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission to the Cabinet Secretary on 12 April 2022, regarding their opinion on LSE Study on Cephalopod and Decapod Sentience.

Mairi Gougeon MSP
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP

c/o Scottish Animal Welfare Commission Secretariat
Animal Health and Welfare Team
P-Spur, Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

12 April 2022

Dear Cabinet Secretary

The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) welcomes the findings of the LSE study on sentience in cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans . We welcome the review of the evidence and appreciate the evaluation by the research team.

In particular:

We recognise the definition of sentience, which reflects and reaffirms the SAWC's definition.

We are cognisant of the robustness of the methodological approach, which covers a wide literature and applied criteria linked to those we have proposed and applied in our Case Study of Cephalopods. The SAWC considers that phylogenetic considerations can also be useful in order to generalise conclusions across taxa, which the report does, particularly when scientific evidence for some species is lacking. The SAWC additionally consider that Qualitative Behavioural Assessment methods, based on direct perception and empathetic assessment, is another useful scientific approach that complements other scientific methods when considering sentience.

In the report, it is unclear what degree of proof the authors place in their ascription of sentience to different species. We would consider the weight of evidence provided sufficient to support (and the inevitable data gaps insufficient to deny) the conclusions of recognising sentience in the cephalopod and decapod taxa named. We agree with their conclusions for cephalopods including nautiloids. We agree with their conclusions for decapods, including shrimps.

Recognising sentience is of value only if the animal species concerned are then treated as sentient and leads to an improvement of their welfare. From a policy perspective, this involves affording them some protection from suffering. What form this takes is beyond the review of the SAWC to date, but we welcome the suggestions by the LSE study including in relation to declawing, nicking and live boiling.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Cathy Dwyer

Chair, Scottish Animal Welfare Commission

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