Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Article

From an animal's point of view: Motivation, fitness, and animal welfare

Marian Stamp Dawkinsa1

a1 University of Oxford, Animal Behaviour Research Group, Department of Zoology, Oxford OX1 3PS, England


To study animal welfare empirically we need an objective basis for deciding when an animal is suffering. Suffering includes a wide range ofunpleasant emotional states such as fear, boredom, pain, and hunger. Suffering has evolved as a mechanism for avoiding sources ofdanger and threats to fitness. Captive animals often suffer in situations in which they are prevented from doing something that they are highly motivated to do. The “price” an animal is prepared to pay to attain or to escape a situation is an index ofhow the animal “feels” about that situation. Withholding conditions or commodities for which an animal shows “inelastic demand” (i.e., for which it continues to work despite increasing costs) is very likely to cause suffering. In designing environments for animals in zoos, farms, and laboratories, priority should be given to features for which animals show inelastic demand. The care ofanimals can thereby be based on an objective, animal-centered assessment of their needs.