The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, passed in 2016, aims to make it easier to prosecute people in animal cruelty cases, as well as banning certain types of animal testing and research. Animal rights activists have celebrated the decision. “To say that animals are sentient is to state explicitly that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress,” said Dr Virginia Williams, chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee. “The explicitness is what is new and marks another step along the animal welfare journey.”’ (1)
This landmark ruling by New Zealand is the first time this shift in perception and policy has been extended to all animals, not just chimpanzees, orangutans, or dolphins.
In July 2013 a group of scientists offered up what is called “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” which concluded nonhuman animals are conscious beings. The landmark document stressed, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.” (2)