CFP: Interspecies Comparisons of Welfare

Submission deadline: January 31, 2022

Conference date(s):
April 28, 2022 - April 29, 2022

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

London School of Economics
London, United Kingdom

Topic areas


The London School of Economics and Political Science's Foundations of Animal Sentience (ASENT) Project and Rethink Priorities are sponsoring an interdisciplinary, in-person conference on the problems and prospects for making interspecies welfare comparisons, which will be held at the LSE on 28-29 April 2022.

Comparisons across species are not straightforward because there are significant differences between animals with respect to their cognitive, affective, and sensory capabilities. Such comparisons require input from many fields, including animal welfare science, evolutionary biology, comparative cognition, neuroethology, ecology, economics, philosophy, and others. This breadth of perspective is essential to understand the differences between species, the relevance of those differences for welfare, and how we can both quantify and aggregate welfare to address practical problems. For example, interspecies compariaons of welfare are relevant for the following questions:

  1. Food production: When, if ever, is it better to replace the consumption of larger animals (cattle, pigs) with smaller ones (chicken, fish), resulting in harm to a greater number of animals for the same amount of meat?

  2. Animal use in research: When animal care and use committees are assessing research protocols, how should the harms to animals be quantified and compared to the expected human benefit of those research efforts? Relatedly, how should harms to different model organisms be compared? Is it acceptable to harm a greater number of invertebrates to avoid harming a smaller number of vertebrates?

  3. Allocation of resources: How should governments allocate scarce resources to address the suffering of the members of different species in the wake of devastating natural disasters, such as the 2020 wildfires in Australia? For instance, should euthanizing severely injured mammals be a higher priority than euthanizing severely injured avian species?

  4. Animal welfare interventions: Major charitable organizations want to invest in improving animal welfare. As the insect farming industry grows, these organizations have to decide whether they should fund interventions that aim to improve the welfare of crickets and black soldier flies. Should they? If so, how should they prioritize those causes relative to others?

With these kinds of difficult and pressing challenges in mind, we invite paper and poster abstracts about interspecies compariaons of welfare. This may include questions like the following:

  • When did sentience evolve and how should that inform judgments about the distribution of sentience across taxa?

  • Which cognitive capacities are most important for understanding variation in welfare across species?   

  • Does it make sense to say that the members of one species can experience more intense pains or pleasures than the members of another? If so, what could provide evidence of such variation?

  • How do affective states other than pleasure and pain--such as sadness, fear, and boredom--influence animals’ capacity for welfare?

  • Do humans have the greatest capacity for welfare? That is, can humans be better and worse off than the members of any other species?

  • What unit should be used to aggregate harms to animals?

We are interested in a wide range of contributions: reviews, discussions of possible experimental paradigms, theoretical and methodological papers, new empirical results, and so on. The aim of this event is to bring together a diverse group of people to explore and discuss methodologies for making progress on these difficult issues.

Abstracts are due by 31 January 2022. Notifications of acceptance will be made by 15 February 2022. Please submit an anonymized abstract of 400-600 words via this form.

There will be two $750 prizes for the best papers. To be eligible, you must submit a full paper manuscript by April 1, 2022. The winners will be announced at the conference.

In the interest of making this conference accessible to those not in permanent academic positions (including, but not limited, to graduate students and postdocs), a limited number of $500 travel bursaries are available. If you qualify, please indicate as much when submitting your abstract.

Confirmed speakers include Marc Bracke, Liz Paul, Heather Browning, and Anil Seth.

Link for submitting abstract: Submit an Abstract


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#London events, #animal ethics, #well-being, #welfare, #interpersonal comparisons of well-being, #applied ethics