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Interview with Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, Veganpalooza 2012

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Interview with Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, Veganpalooza 2012

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe interview from Veganpalooza 2012
July 2012

Downloadable PDF of the entire interview

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987. He has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. He has published over 40 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection (see Academic). Formerly Senior Research Scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, he is currently Chair of the Animal Studies Department with the Humane Society University. Please visit Jonathan's website.


I like to say that sentience is the bedrock of ethics. The reason that we have moral systems is simply that other individuals have lives that matter. It’s the capacity for pain and pleasure that is what makes life matter. That’s very important. Common sense never really would

deny that other animals can feel pain and pleasure. We can debate about where we draw the line, but the scientific evidence now also supports the common sense that certainly all vertebrate animals, all animals with backbones – that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes – they all feel pain, and I argue and there’s plenty of evidence they also feel pleasure, even though scientists have been reluctant to accept that. Scientists are often the last one, ironically, to come to the realization of these things because they’re so dogged in their strictures about proving things or demonstrating things. But given that we’re not on the only pleasure seekers and pain avoiders in the world, that means that our ethics have to catch up with that fact.

Downloadable PDF of the entire interview