Pain in invertebrates  

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Pain in invertebrates is a problematic issue. Although there are numerous definitions of pain, almost all involve two key components. First, nociception is required. This is the ability to detect noxious stimuli which evokes a reflex response that moves the entire animal, or the affected part of its body, away from the source of the stimulus. The concept of nociception does not imply any adverse, subjective ‘feeling’ - it is a reflex action. The second component is the experience of ‘pain’ itself, or suffering, i.e. the internal, emotional interpretation of the nociceptive experience. Pain is therefore a private, emotional experience. We cannot currently measure pain directly in other animals, including other humans; we can measure responses to putatively painful stimuli, but not the experience itself. To address this problem when assessing the capacity of other species to experience pain, we resort to argument-by-analogy. This is based on the principle that if an animal responds to a stimulus in a similar way to ourselves, it is likely to have had an analogous experience. Dr Chris Sherwin at the University of Bristol used this line of reasoning to question whether invertebrates have the capacity for suffering. He argued that if we stick a pin in a chimpanzee's finger and she rapidly withdraws her hand, we use argument-by-analogy and infer that like us, she felt pain. Why then, Sherwin questions, do we not infer a cockroach experiences the same when it writhes after being stuck with a pin?

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