The last ten years have witnessed rapid advances in the science of animal cognition and behavior. Striking results have hinted at surprisingly rich inner lives in a wide range of animals, driving renewed debate about animal consciousness. 

To highlight these advances, the NYU Mind, Ethics and Policy Program and NYU Wild Animal Welfare Program co-hosted a conference on the emerging science of animal consciousness on Friday April 19 at New York University. This conference also served as the launch event for The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness

This short statement, signed by leading scientists who research a wide range of taxa, holds that all vertebrates (including reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) and many invertebrates (including cephalopod mollusks, decapod crustaceans, and insects) have a realistic chance of being conscious, and that their welfare merits consideration. 

We now welcome signatures from others as well. If you have relevant expertise (for example, a graduate education or the equivalent in science, philosophy, or policy), you can send an email to from your institutional email address, say that you wish to sign, and list your title and institution as they should appear.

Day-one media coverage of the conference and declaration included articles at NatureNBCQuantaThe Hill, and The Times. We also recorded the event, and our team will post videos on the declaration website in the near future.

If you have questions or comments, feel free to send an email to or

Thank you to NYU Animal Studies, the NYU Center for Bioethics, and the NYU Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness for supporting this event.




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Thank you Sofia for your absolutely pivotal role in this initiative. 

Could someone please explain how much extra value this adds given that we already have the Cambridge declaration?

As an outsider to the field, here are some impressions I have:

  • NY declaration is very short and uses simple language, which makes it a useful tool for communicating with the public. Compare to this sentence from the Cambridge declaration:

The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals.

  • The Cambridge declaration is over a decade old. Releasing a similar statement is another chance for media attention and indicates that the consensus hasn't shifted in the opposite direction.
  • The NY declaration places a clearer emphasis on "cephalopod mollusks, decapod crustaceans, and insects." 

    A footnote to the Cambridge declaration mentions "decapod crustaceans, cephalopod mollusks, and insects" in a somewhat confusing way: it says there's "very strong evidence" to support that these animals also "possess the neurological substrates of consciousness," but they aren't mentioned in the main declaration because there was not any presentation on them at the particular conference where it was signed.

    Insofar as the NY declaration is meant to support shrimp or insect welfare, this seems like a plus.

Thanks for organizing the conference, the statement, and the resulting media coverage! Cool to see big names like Chalmers on the list.

Is it random that this appeared in the New York Times yesterday, or are the two related?

How Do We Know What Animals Are Really Feeling? - The New York Times (

Regardless, it is great to see more realisation and communication around this topic. Most people just do not make any mental association between "food" and "animal suffering". One day this will all appear utterly barbaric, the way slavery appears barbaric to us today even though some highly reputed figures throughout history owned slaves. 

The more communication we have around animal consciousness and suffering, the faster that will happen. 

The best kind of communication may well be the kind that is not "accusatory" - just informative. Let people think about it for themselves rather than telling them what to think. 

Ultimately, maybe the best hope for ending animal suffering is alternative protein, and it is shocking how little money and effort is committed to this, given that it's also critical for climate, for hunger-reduction, for resilience. Alternative protein offers the potential to tell people "here is a cheaper, healthier, tastier, climate-friendlier... alternative to meat, which also avoids animal suffering." 

There are thousands of people who would jump on that statement and say it's unrealistic, but it's absolutely not. It's just that we're not treating it like the emergency that it is, we're not putting the same resources into it that we're putting into making more powerful iphones. We could choose to. 


First, there is strong scientific support for attributions of conscious experience to other mammals and to birds.

I'm interested in the scientific arguments because, as far as I know, we don't have a good model of consciousness, and many models involve higher-level structures that we don't see in animals with very small brains. I know that some models of consciousness seem to imply that many small animals (or even LLMs!) with "integrated information" are conscious, but it's unclear enough not to pretend that there's a consensus on whether a hummingbird with 100 million neurons is able to instantiate subjective experience! I agree that when in doubt we must take steps to minimise any risk of causing suffering, but this should not lead us to assume an epistemologically questionable perspective. So maybe I'm wrong, and since I'm not a specialist in consciousness, I'm interested in why experts endorse such a statement.

This doesn’t seem very useful. All well and good to declare that lots of animals might have “conscious experience”, but without a way to define “conscious experience” or having any way to compare the value of the “conscious experience” of different animals, where does it get us?

I worry that this is just abstract philosophical noise that distracts from productive efforts like developing alternative proteins, exposing and lobbying against the cruelty of factory farming, and eliminating the poverty and desperation that underlies a lot of the global indifference to animal suffering.

I think it is valuable to have this stuff on record. If it isn't recorded anywhere, then anyone who wants to reference this position in another academic work -- even if it is the consensus within a field -- is left presenting it in a way that makes it look like their personal opinion.

A very common common counterargument to improving the lots of various animals is that the animals aren't conscious.  A letter signed by experts seems useful in debunking, or at least casting doubt, on such counterarguments.  You are right to point out that this doesn't solve the difficult problem of comparing welfare or rights between species, but it's still a very important step.

Why would this be a distraction even if not very significant?  Seems one could sign the letter and argue for the position while doing all the things you like.  

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