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May 2, 2024

Leading scientists and philosophers published the "New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness" in April.

The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness

Leading scientists and philosophers published the "New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness" in April. The declaration emphasizes the strong possibility of subjective consciousness in a wide range of nonhuman animals. This recognition carries ethical implications, as it urges us to reflect on how our actions may impact the well-being of other living beings.

What is Consciousness?

Consciousness can have various meanings. The "New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness" focuses on a specific aspect of consciousness known as "phenomenal consciousness" or "sentience."

Phenomenal consciousness or sentience describes direct subjective experiences, whether sensory or emotional in nature. This perspective goes beyond mere stimulus-response and refers to experiences that do not necessarily require human-like abilities such as language or rational argumentation.

An example of this type of consciousness is the capacity to experience joy. However, in practice, it is difficult to determine with certainty which living beings possess phenomenal consciousness. Consciousness is inherently subjective, relating to personal experiences and thoughts, and current methods make it challenging to make direct statements about the inner lives of nonhuman animals.

Therefore, scientists rely on indirect evidence to infer an animal's consciousness. Behavioral observations are particularly useful in finding signs of consciousness, though they are subject to interpretation errors. Yet, there are numerous indicators suggesting that a wide variety of nonhuman animals may possess consciousness.

Animals with a Realistic Possibility of Consciousness

The New York Declaration points to a strong scientific consensus indicating that many nonhuman animals might possess phenomenal consciousness. This consensus includes all mammals and birds. The conclusion is based on a multitude of studies showing learning abilities, memory, problem-solving, self-awareness, and other traits in these animals.

Indications of a realistic possibility of consciousness are also observed in:

  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Fish
  • Invertebrates, such as:
    • Octopuses
    • Hermit crabs
    • Bees
    • Fruit flies

The findings suggest that these animals may have an inner world as complex as ours.

Ethical Implications

The realization that nonhuman animals might have subjective experiences compels us to rethink our relationship with them. Our actions should always take into account the well-being of these animals. According to the New York Declaration, it is irresponsible to ignore this insight in decisions that affect the lives of nonhuman animals.

We must consider the risks to their welfare and draw on scientific evidence to respond appropriately. By doing so, we can establish a solid ethical foundation for the treatment of nonhuman animals.

Scientific Knowledge for Animal Movements

The "New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness" represents an important milestone in understanding animal consciousness. It urges us to take scientific findings seriously and make ethical decisions that consider the welfare of nonhuman animals.

Expertise for Animals shares this concern and is committed to using scientific knowledge to benefit nonhuman animals. We bring current research findings into the practice of animal movements. Through this connection between science and activism, we implement the demands of the New York Declaration into concrete measures. With this strong impetus, we are advancing the protection of nonhuman animals.




In our glossary, we explain our use of language and why we do not use some words, use them differently, or use them just so. In addition, technical terms are explained and sometimes illustrated graphically or in pictures.

( Glossary )