Ascribing sentience to animals and case study of the evidence for sentience in cephalopods: Scottish Animal Welfare Commission report

Scottish Animal Welfare Commission report on the principles for ascribing sentience to animals and case study of the evidence for sentience in cephalopods.


(i) to provide a study of the evidence and thought processes underlying the ascription of sentience; (ii) to apply these principles to the case of cephalopods.

Part of the work of SAWC has been the development of a definition of sentience, which we published online on 10th February 2021.

SAWC defines animal sentience as: 'the ability to have physical and emotional experiences, which matter to the animal, and which can be positive and negative'.

Determining whether an animal is sentient is complex and relies on balancing the weight of evidence from neurological, behavioural, anatomical, physiological and cognitive studies. We consider that the animals for which the threshold for evidence of sentience has been exceeded, and thus for whom a consideration of animal welfare is important, include: vertebrates (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians), and cephalopods (e.g. octopus and squid) and is likely to include decapod crustaceans (e.g. crab and lobster).

As a further continuation of these ideas, this document sets out an approach for justifiably ascribing sentience to some animals, followed by a case study for one group (cephalopods) to demonstrate the application of scientific evidence to the assumptions of sentience.



Back to top