How should we conduct fish research in the light of our current knowledge on pain perception?


VA Braithwaite

Animal Cognition Group, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK



Fish are increasingly used in both pure and applied research. As such, it would seem timely to reflect on the implications of our interactions with fish, and to consider what steps can be taken to ensure the welfare of the fish we interact with. The question of whether fish have a capacity for pain perception and suffering has recently attracted considerable attention in both scientific and public fora, and it is now clear that fish share similar pain processing neuro-anatomy and stress physiology with other vertebrates. In the light of this evidence it seems reasonable to conclude that fish have a capacity for pain perception. Following on from this, researchers are now addressing whether fish are capable of suffering pain and physiological stress. Here, work addressing the cognitive capacities of fish has suggested that fish cognition and behaviour are more complex than previously understood. However, several questions need to be addressed before we can fully answer this aspect of fish welfare. In this presentation, I will suggest a number of research areas that could usefully be the focus of new research on fish welfare, and in particular, I will highlight aspects of welfare that should be considered when we use fish in research.