Forensic Use of the Five Domains Model for Assessing Suffering in Cases of Animal Cruelty
Animal Welfare and Behaviour Consulting, P.O. Box 72012, Sasamat RPO, Vancouver, BC V6R 4P2, Canada
Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4474, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 May 2018 / Revised: 18 June 2018 / Accepted: 18 June 2018 / Published: 25 June 2018
Courts hearing cases about alleged ill-treatment of animals frequently utilise expert opinions which evaluate the nature and seriousness of reported negative welfare impacts. For several decades the Courts have required statements about such impacts to be supported mainly by physical and/or clinical evidence, usually regarding commentary about animals’ subjective experiences as being scientifically unsupported anthropomorphic speculation. This approach is well aligned with a view of animal welfare developed in the 1980s which emphasised scientifically validated features of “biological functioning” and, at an extreme, rejected any reference to subjective experiences that animals might have. However, subjective experiences, which include emotions, feelings, moods, and motivations, technically known as affects or affective states, became an increasing focus for animal behaviour scientists from the 1990s. This is now known as the “affective state” conceptual framework and it has been strengthened during the last two decades by integrating the findings of animal behaviour scientists and neuroscientists who explored brain processes that generate affective experiences. This provided cogent scientific support both for the existence of specific affects and the use of animals’ behaviour and some physiological responses to identify them. Two outcomes are noteworthy: first, that an animal’s welfare state is now very widely regarded by animal welfare scientists to reflect all of its affects experienced at any particular time, i.e., what the animal is experiencing subjectively; and second, that the extensive scientific understanding of the brain processes underlying affective experiences now convincingly negates spurious accusations of anthropomorphic speculation. These and other matters are considered here. It is concluded that the Courts’ current heavy reliance on physical and/or clinical evidence of ill-treatment should be modified. Instead, Courts should now recognise—as validly based—expert opinions that provide cogent evidence of untoward affective outcomes caused by ill-treatment, supplemented where appropriate by any relevant physical and/or clinical evidence if that is available.