Animal consciousness: a review

This paper presents the outcome of a scientific multidisciplinary assessment on animal consciousness carried out by Inra from 2015 to 2017. The experts, produced in a 169 pages report in English, an exhaustive analysis of the scientific and philosophical knowledge available in the international literature. It first describes the knowledge about humans in which the concepts and tools describing consciousness have been developed. The available data on animals are much less numerous, but they make it possible to draw firm conclusions, even if they still require more data. Most of the reported results were obtained on laboratory and wild vertebrates and little on livestock species. Consciousness is defined as the subjective experience that the animal has of its environment and of its own knowledge. The overall view of the behavioral, cognitive and neurobiological studies analyzed in the report tends to show the existence of elaborate consciousness contents in the species studied. The consequences for animals of the presence of consciousness on pain and on ethical behavior towards them are presented. Additional researches should complement existing ones, particularly on farmed species.