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Animal sentience in insects and worms?

An article in Undark magazine has asked whether invertebrate animals, such as fruit flies, bees or nematode worms, experience pain and should receive some protection under animal welfare laws.

Author, Katya Zimmer, looked at the latest studies and asked scientists for their opinions.

While none of those asked thought research on invertebrate species should stop, some scientists believed species with relatively simple brains, like insects, or perhaps even those with no central nervous system at all, deserve ethical consideration.

Asked by Undark about the issue of sentience, EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said he was concerned that any further regulatory burden on researchers would only stifle scientific innovation.

Recently the UK Parliament passed an Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which will require the Government to set up an Animal Sentience Committee to examine whether ‘the welfare of animals as sentient beings’ is considered in policy decisions.

Currently, only one country, Norway, regulates research on a species of insect – honeybees - and an article in Science has also highlighted research into whether bees feel pain.


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