Amendment 23

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL] - Report (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 6th December 2021.

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Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative 9:15 pm, 6th December 2021

My Lords, I shall just comment very briefly on what my noble friend has just said. I disagreed with him on one point, when he said that there were no leading lights in the science of sentience. I draw his attention to a wonderful book published by Oxford University Press just a few months ago by the great Cambridge psychologist Nick Humphrey. Nick says, after 60,000 words of argument, as he put it to me in an email:

“My conclusions are quite radical—and at odds with both academic and popular wisdom. I argue that the only animals that have evolved to be sentient are mammals and birds, and not all of these. We really don’t need to worry about lobsters or octopuses.”

He did not add, “or crocodiles”.

So I think that there is developing science on this, and my noble friend is quite right that it needs to be peer-reviewed and investigated. I think that we will find the goalposts move on what is sentient, and that it is not a given that everything with a backbone is sentient or, indeed, that some of the decapods and others are as sentient as we have heard in recent years.