The Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2014

Fish happiness

Trondheim, August 20th 2014 at 13.00-17.00

Research in the last decades has shown that fish too feel pain. Fish possess neuro-anatomical structures, biochemical signalling systems and behaviours which imply that they experience pleasant and unpleasant feeling. This is not surprising. The ability to discriminate between goods and evils is of great use in meeting their needs, avoiding dangers and learning from experience. Despite new knowledge and the new Norwegian animal welfare law that includes fish, our moral intuitions regarding fish are still lagging behind. While most of us refuse to drown a cat, we may still be willing to let a mackerel suffocate slowly in the burning sun as we with great satisfaction take pictures of the catch. Might this be because we view fish as an alien creature from a strange element – entirely different from ourselves and other animals – and therefore are less empathetic toward them?

The purpose of this event is to get fish welfare higher up on the agenda of authorities, the fishing and fish farming industries, anglers and consumers. The question is: What can we do to secure fish happiness?

The Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference 2013
(for info on the 2014 conference, se Home):

Animals’ nature under pressure

How we shape animals in our own image

In the Norwegian animal protection law, it is said that the welfare of animals should be considered with reference to “species-specific and individual needs”. It also says that we are obliged to give animals opportunity to enact “natural behavior”. These directives are often breached. In agriculture, in nature management, in our homes – and in many contexts – it often happens that animals do not get to carry natural behavior into life. This is because we humans limit, inhibit, breed away, neglect, do not prioritize, or simply deprive animals from this opportunity.

Mink and red foxes are kept in wire cages, with little chance to move; big predators are exposed to loss of freedom in form of GPS-labeling, surveillance, anesthesia, sampling and hunting; social pets adjusted to a life in flocks spend their days alone and at rest; naturally curious pigs are held in an environment almost devoid of stimuli.

In this year’s Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference, we shed a light on everything we humans do to adapt animals to our purposes and needs. How far can we go, in terms of ethics, in adapting an animal to our purposes? Is it ethically acceptable to breed wild animals in/to a life of captivity? Is a wild animal that is being GPS-labeled and monitored 24/7 still “wild”? How, in practical terms, can we acknowledge that “livestock” too have natural needs? The question we raise at this conference is how far we ethically speaking can go towards manipulating animal behavior. Or, to put it simpler: How wild should an animal be allowed to be?

The Norwegian Animal Ethics Conference is an annual arena for dissemination, exchange and debate for the various stakeholders that have an interest in animal ethics and animal welfare in Norway. The purpose of the conference is to lift the debate on animal welfare up from the trenches and open up for new perspectives, improved understanding, and better preconditions for coexistence of animals and humans.


Date and time: August 22 2013, 09:00-15:30

Venue: Litteraturhuset in Oslo, Wergeland

Organisers: The [ministry-appointed] Council for Animal Ethics, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM, University of Oslo) and Minding Animals Norway

Web: dyreetikkonferansen.no