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Open AccessReview

Given the Cold Shoulder: A Review of the Scientific Literature for Evidence of Reptile Sentience

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Animal Welfare Consultancy, 11 Orleigh Cross, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 2FX, UK
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Brooke, 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3M 5JE, UK
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World Animal Protection, 5th Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Rd, London WC1X 8HB, UK
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The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 821; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100821
Received: 10 June 2019 / Revised: 3 October 2019 / Accepted: 6 October 2019 / Published: 17 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Welfare of Wild Vertebrates)
Reptiles are popular pets around the world, although their welfare requirements in captivity are not always met, due in part to an apparent lack of awareness of their needs. Herein, we searched a selection of the scientific literature for evidence of, and explorations into, reptile sentience. We used these findings to highlight: (1) how reptiles are recognised as being capable of a range of feelings; (2) what implications this has for the pet trade; and (3) what future research is needed to help maximise their captive welfare. We found 37 studies that assumed reptiles to be capable of the following emotions and states; anxiety, stress, distress, excitement, fear, frustration, pain, and suffering. We also found four articles that explored and found evidence for the capacity of reptiles to feel pleasure, emotion, and anxiety. These findings have direct implications for how reptiles are treated in captivity, as a better understanding of their sentience is critical in providing them with the best quality of life possible.
We searched a selection of the scientific literature to document evidence for, and explorations into reptile sentience. The intention of this review was to highlight; (1) to what extent reptile capability for emotions have been documented in the scientific literature; (2) to discuss the implications this evidence has for the trade in reptiles; and (3) to outline what future research is needed to maximise their captive welfare needs. We used 168 keywords associated with sentience, to search through four journal databases and one open-access journal. We recorded studies that explored sentience in reptiles and those that recognised reptile sentience in their experiments. We found that reptiles were assumed to be capable of the following emotions and states; anxiety, distress, excitement, fear, frustration, pain, stress, and suffering, in 37 articles. We also found four articles that explored and found evidence for the capacity of reptiles to feel pleasure, emotion, and anxiety. These findings show that reptiles are considered to be capable of experiencing a range of emotions and states. This has implications for how reptiles are treated in captivity, as a better understanding could help to inform a range of different operational initiatives aimed at reducing negative animal welfare impacts, including improved husbandry and consumer behaviour change programmes. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; reptile; sentience; cognition; emotion; tortoise; turtle; lizard; snake; exotic pet trade animal welfare; reptile; sentience; cognition; emotion; tortoise; turtle; lizard; snake; exotic pet trade
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Lambert, H.; Carder, G.; D’Cruze, N. Given the Cold Shoulder: A Review of the Scientific Literature for Evidence of Reptile Sentience. Animals 2019, 9, 821.

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