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Q Rev Biol. 1998 Sep;73(3):305-28.

Evolution and animal welfare.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. MARIAN.DAWKINS@ZOOLOGY.OXFORD.AC.UK


Animal welfare is a topic often thought to reside outside mainstream biology. The complexity of the methods used to assess welfare (such as health, physiology, immunological state, and behavior) require an understanding of a wide range of biological phenomena. Furthermore, the "welfare" of an animal provides a framework in which a diversity of its responses can be understood as fitness-enhancing mechanisms. Different methods for assessing animal welfare are discussed, with particular emphasis on the role of an animal's own choices and reinforcement mechanisms. No part of biology is as yet able to explain consciousness, but by confronting the possibility that nonhuman animals have conscious experienced of suffering, animal welfare studies force a consideration of even this hardest problem of all biological phenomena in a particularly direct and evolutionary way.

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