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Press Release - U of G Symposium to Explore Whether Fish Perceive Pain

Monday, July 10, 2006

Written by Rachelle Cooper-News Service Officer, Communications and Public Affairs

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 141 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 behavio

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