February 7, 2023

Why interspecies welfare comparisons are both important and difficult to make


Humans regularly need to make decisions that involve trade-offs across species. When an action or policy might be good for some animals but bad for others, making a principled decision partly requires comparing these welfare impacts in a principled way. This, in turn, partly requires comparing welfare ranges—that is, how much pleasure, pain, and other such states animals can experience—in a principled way. However, our ability to make these comparisons is very limited at present. In this talk, Bob Fischer will discuss why interspecies welfare comparisons are both important and difficult to make. He will argue against using neuron counts as a proxy for welfare ranges and in favor of a more sophisticated framework, and will present some implications of this framework for several farmed species.


Bob Fischer is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas State University, a Senior Research Manager at Rethink Priorities, and the Director of the Society for the Study of Ethics and Animals. His most recent books are Animal Ethics—A Contemporary Introduction, published by Routledge in 2021, and Weighing Animal Welfare: Comparing Well-being Across Species, which is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.