Heather Browning

Heather Browning
The London School of Economics and Political Science | LSE · Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS)

Bachelor of Arts (Hons) - Philosophy

About

64
Publications
22,303
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Citations
Introduction
I am a postdoctoral Research Officer in animal sentience and welfare at the London School of Economics, as part of the Foundations of Animal Sentience project. My primary research interests are animal welfare, ethics and consciousness. I received my PhD from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, with a thesis exploring some philosophical issues in the measurement of animal welfare. I have also previously worked for many years as a zookeeper and zoo animal welfare officer.
Additional affiliations
May 2017 - May 2017
Australian National University
Position
  • Lecturer
Description
  • Gave a guest lecture on animal research ethics for PHIL2126: Science in Society
July 2015 - November 2015
Australian National University
Position
  • Lecturer
Description
  • Lecturer and tutor for PHIL2082: Philosophy of Biology
July 2015 - November 2015
Australian National University
Position
  • Tutor
Description
  • Tutor for three tutorial groups for PHIL1005: Critical Thinking
Education
January 2010 - December 2013
Australian National University
Field of study
  • Philosophy
January 2007 - December 2007
Charles Sturt University
Field of study
  • Captive Vertebrate Management
January 2006 - December 2006
UNITEC Institute of Technology
Field of study
  • Animal Management (Captive Wild Animals)

Publications

Publications (64)
Thesis
Full-text available
Animal welfare is a concept that plays a role within both our moral deliberations and the relevant areas of science. The study of animal welfare has impacts on decisions made by legislators, producers and consumers with regards to housing and treatment of animals. Our ethical deliberations in these domains need to consider our impact on animals, an...
Article
Full-text available
Animal welfare has a long history of disregard. While in recent decades the study of animal welfare has become a scientific discipline of its own, the difficulty of measuring animal welfare can still be vastly underestimated. There are three primary theories, or perspectives, on animal welfare-biological functioning, natural living and affective st...
Article
Full-text available
The performance of natural behavior is commonly used as a criterion in the determination of animal welfare. This is still true, despite many authors having demonstrated that it is not a necessary component of welfare – some natural behaviors may decrease welfare, while some unnatural behaviors increase it. Here I analyze why this idea persists, and...
Article
Full-text available
One of the biggest ethical issues in animal agriculture is that of the welfare of animals at the end of their lives, during the process of slaughter. Much work in animal welfare science is focussed on finding humane ways to transport and slaughter animals, to minimise the harm done during this process. In this paper, we take a philosophical look at...
Article
Full-text available
The size of animal exhibits has important effects on their lives and welfare. However, most references to exhibit size only consider floor space and height dimensions, without considering the space afforded by usable features within the exhibit. In this paper, we develop two possible methods for measuring the usable space of zoo exhibits and apply...
Article
Full-text available
There are many decision contexts in which we require accurate information on animal welfare, in ethics, management, and policy. Unfortunately, many of the methods currently used for estimating animal welfare in these contexts are subjective and unreliable, and thus unlikely to be accurate. In this paper, I look at how we might apply principled meth...
Article
Full-text available
Benenson et al. provide a compelling case for treating greater investment into self-protection among females as an adaptive strategy. Here, we wish to expand their proposed adaptive explanation by placing it squarely in modern state-based and behavioral life-history theory, drawing on Veit’s pathological complexity framework. This allows us to make...
Article
Full-text available
One of the primary concerns in animal research is to ensure the welfare of laboratory animals. Modern views on animal welfare emphasise the role of animal sentience, i.e. the capacity of animals to experience subjective states such as pleasure or suffering, as a central component of welfare. The increasing official recognition of animal sentience h...
Article
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Katz (2022) provides arguments drawn from the environmental philosophy literature to criticize the conceptualisation and practice of de-extinction with a focus on the ontological and epistemological issues - the human dimension of de-extinction, using concepts relevant only to us and our understanding of the world. In this commentary we wish to dra...
Article
Full-text available
‘Sentience’ sometimes refers to the capacity for any type of subjective experience, and sometimes to the capacity to have subjective experiences with a positive or negative valence, such as pain or pleasure. We review recent controversies regarding sentience in fish and invertebrates and consider the deep methodological challenge posed by these cas...
Article
One of the most challenging questions surrounding subjective animal welfare is whether these states are measurable: that is, is subjective welfare an appropriately quantifiable target for scientific enquiry and ethical and deliberative calculation? The availability of several different types of measurement scale raises important questions regarding...
Article
Full-text available
One of the major challenges to the welfare of animals in agriculture is the conditions of transport and slaughter. Worldwide, over 70 billion animals are slaughtered for agriculture each year, which places this as a particularly significant ethical issue. In this paper we argue that these harms should be paid special attention over other equivalent...
Preprint
Full-text available
One of the biggest problems in applications of animal welfare science is our ability to make comparisons between different individuals, particularly different species. Although welfare science provides methods for measuring the welfare of individual animals, there's no established method for comparing measures between individuals. This problem occu...
Article
Full-text available
One of the biggest problems in applications of animal welfare science is our ability to make comparisons between different individuals, particularly different species. Although welfare science provides methods for measuring the welfare of individual animals, there’s no established method for comparing measures between individuals. This problem occu...
Article
Full-text available
There has been much criticism of the idea that Friston’s free energy principle can unite the life and mind sciences. Here, we argue that perhaps the greatest problem for the totalizing ambitions of its proponents is a failure to recognize the importance of evolutionary dynamics and to provide a convincing adaptive story relating free energy minimiz...
Article
Full-text available
Heintz and Scott-Phillips provide a useful synthesis for constructing a bridge between work by both cognitive scientists and evolutionary biologists studying the diversity of human communication. Here, we aim to strengthen their bridge from the side of evolutionary biology, to argue that we can best understand ostensive communication as a scaffold...
Article
Full-text available
In this commentary, we advance Jagiello et al.’s (2022) proposal by zooming in on the possible evolutionary origins of the ‘bifocal stance’ that may have enabled a major transition in human cultural evolution, arguing that the evolution of the bifocal stance was driven by an explosion in cultural complexity arising from cooperative foraging, that l...
Article
We outline a framework for evaluating scientific evidence of sentience, focusing on pain experience. It includes eight neural and cognitive-behavioural criteria, with confidence levels for each criterion reflecting the reliability and quality of the evidence. We outline the rationale for each criterion and apply our framework to a controversial sen...
Article
Why is it that people simultaneously treat social robots as mere designed artifacts, yet show willingness to interact with them as if they were real agents? Here, we argue that Dennett’s distinction between the intentional stance and the design stance can help us to resolve this puzzle, allowing us to further our understanding of social robots as i...
Article
In order to address why numbers of patients suffering from anxiety and depression are seemingly exploding in WEIRD countries it is sensible to look at the evolution of human fearfulness responses. Here, we draw on Veit’s pathological complexity framework to advance Grossmann’s goal to re-characterize human fearfulness as an adaptive trait.
Article
It is a hotly contested issue whether polygenic scores should play a major role in the social sciences. Here, we defend a methodologically pluralist stance in which sociogenomics should abandon its hype and recognize that it suffers from all the methodological difficulties of the social sciences, yet nevertheless maintain an optimistic stance towar...
Article
Full-text available
The conditions animals experience during the early developmental stages of their lives can have critical ongoing effects on their future health, welfare, and proper development. In this paper we draw on evolutionary theory to improve our understanding of the processes of developmental programming, particularly Predictive Adaptive Responses (PAR) th...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique set of challenges for national governments regarding how to deal with a major international pandemic of almost unprecedented scope. As the pandemic constitutes not only a medical challenge, but a moral one, it is thus not surprising that the topic has received much attention within bioethics. While the ini...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Sentience is the capacity to have feelings, such as feelings of pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, warmth, joy, comfort and excitement. It is not simply the capacity to feel pain, but feelings of pain, distress or harm, broadly understood, have a special significance for animal welfare law. Drawing on over 300 scientific studies, we have evaluated the...
Article
Full-text available
A core challenge for contemporary bioethics is how to address the tension between respecting an individual’s autonomy and promoting their wellbeing when these ideals seem to come into conflict.This tension is often reflected in discussions of the ethical status of guardianship and other surrogate decision-making regimes for individuals with differe...
Chapter
Full-text available
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is frequently criticized as barbaric and inhumane. This stands in stark contrast with the booming popularity of the sport. Before now, what little philosophical work has been written on MMA depicts it as something inherently wrong (as with Dixon) or as something merely permissible (as with articles by Weimer and Kershnar an...
Article
Full-text available
The keeping of captive animals in zoos and aquariums has long been controversial. Many take freedom to be a crucial part of animal welfare and on these grounds criticise all forms of animal captivity as harmful to animal welfare, regardless of their provisions. Here, we analyse what it might mean for freedom to matter to welfare, distinguishing bet...
Article
Full-text available
The keeping of captive animals in zoos and aquariums has long been controversial. Many take freedom to be a crucial part of animal welfare and, on these grounds, criticise all forms of animal captivity as harmful to animal welfare, regardless of their provisions. Here, we analyse what it might mean for freedom to matter to welfare, distinguishing b...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper addresses what we consider to be the most pressing challenge for the emerging science of consciousness: the measurement problem of consciousness. That is, by what methods can we determine the presence of and properties of consciousness? Most methods are currently developed through evaluation of the presence of consciousness in humans and...
Article
Full-text available
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subj...
Preprint
Full-text available
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka's The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subj...
Preprint
Full-text available
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is frequently criticized as barbaric and inhumane. This stands in stark contrast with the booming popularity of the sport. What little has been written depicts MMA as something inherently wrong (Dixon 2015) or at best merely permissible (Weimer 2017; Kershnar and Kelly 2019). Contrary to these foregoing analyses, this chapt...
Preprint
Full-text available
What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be sick? These two questions are much closer to one another than has hitherto been acknowledged. Indeed, both raise a number of related, albeit very complex, philosophical problems. In recent years, the phenomenology of health and disease has become a major topic in bioethics and the philosophy of med...
Article
Full-text available
In this essay, we discuss Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka’s The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul from an interdisciplinary perspective. Constituting perhaps the longest treatise on the evolution of consciousness, Ginsburg and Jablonka unite their expertise in neuroscience and biology to develop a beautifully Darwinian account of the dawning of subj...
Article
Full-text available
This paper addresses what we consider to be the most pressing challenge for the emerging science of consciousness: the measurement problem of consciousness. That is, by what methods can we determine the presence of and properties of consciousness? Most methods are currently developed through evaluation of the presence of consciousness in humans and...
Article
Full-text available
Ng’s (2016) target article built on his earlier work advocating a science of welfare biology (Ng 1995). Although there were problems with the models proposed in Ng’s original paper regarding the balance of pleasure and suffering for wild animals, his call for a science of wild animal welfare was a sound one. This does not require a new discipline b...
Article
Full-text available
This paper addresses what we consider to be the most pressing challenge for the emerging science of consciousness: the measurement problem of consciousness. That is, by what methods can we determine the presence of and properties of consciousness? Most methods are currently developed through evaluation of the presence of consciousness in humans and...
Article
Full-text available
With increasing attention given to wild animal welfare and ethics, it has become common to depict animals outside of captivity as existing in a state of predominantly suffering. This assumption is now taken on board by many and frames much of the current discussion; but needs a more critical assessment, both theoretically and empirically. In this p...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years we have seen an explosion of scholarship within the field of neuroethics – a subdiscipline of bioethics concerned with the ethical challenges raised by advances in neuroscience and the development of new neurotechnologies. While some, such as Parens and Johnston (2007), have challenged the idea that neuroethics is a unique sub-disci...
Article
Full-text available
Alongside the rapid global advances in neuroscientific research, neuroethics has been one of the fastest growing sub-fields within bioethics. With this rapid expansion, bioethicists struggle to keep up with the continual stream of new ethical challenges raised by the neurosciences including topics such as cognitive enhancement, use of neural organo...
Article
Full-text available
Dubourg & Baumard mention a potential role for the human drive to systemise as a factor motivating interest in imaginary worlds. Given that hyperexpression of this trait has been linked with autism (Baron-Cohen 2002, 2006), we think this raises interesting implications for how those on the autism spectrum may differ from the neurotypical population...
Article
Full-text available
It is a familiar idea that we should “apply the precautionary principle” when designing animal welfare regulations: we should not allow our uncertainty about the sentience of some animals to delay the adoption of proportionate measures to protect those animals from severe welfare threats. The same general idea should be applied to neural organoid r...
Chapter
Full-text available
What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be sick? These two questions are much closer to one another than has hitherto been acknowledged. Indeed, both raise a number of related, albeit very complex, philosophical problems. In recent years, the phenomenology of health and disease has become a major topic in bioethics and the philosophy of med...
Article
Full-text available
Mikhalevich & Powell (2020) argue that it is wrong, both scientifically and morally, to dismiss the evidence for sentience in invertebrates. They do not offer any examples, however, of how their welfare should be considered or improved. We draw on animal welfare science to suggest some ways that would not be excessively demanding. Heather Browning...
Preprint
Full-text available
When making decisions about action to improve animal lives, it is important that we have accurate estimates of how much animals are suffering under different conditions. The current frameworks for making comparative estimates of suffering all fall along the lines of multiplying numbers of animals used by length of life and amount of suffering exper...
Article
Full-text available
What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be sick? These two questions are much closer to one another than has hitherto been acknowledged. Indeed, both raise a number of related, albeit very complex, philosophical problems. In recent years, the phenomenology of health and disease has become a major topic in bioethics and the philosophy of med...
Preprint
The last decade has seen an explosion of meta-philosophical work on ’conceptual engineering’. Beyond simple analysis of concepts, conceptual engineering allows for evaluation and improvement of concepts according to the purposes to which they will be used. This paper sketches a pluralist account of conceptual engineering and provides a distinction...
Preprint
Full-text available
This petition is submitted on behalf of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing animal suffering, and co-petitioners and is requesting action by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Specifically, the petitioners request NIH to ac...
Preprint
Full-text available
Animals form a central part of the story in Life of Pi: Pi’s early years are spent in his family’s zoo, and the cast of animal characters play an important role in his experiences on the lifeboat. There are many different topics arising from the representation of animals in this story that could be discussed, but one issue raised - and perhaps the...
Article
Full-text available
Marino & Merskin (2019) demonstrate that sheep are more cognitively complex than typically thought. We should be cautious in interpreting the implications of these results for welfare considerations to avoid perpetuating mistaken beliefs about the moral value of intelligence as opposed to sentience. There are, however, still important ways in which...
Article
Full-text available
Mather (2019) has brought together the current empirical research in support of the claim that octopuses possess minds; and the weight of the evidence does appear to support octopus sentience. Being sentient means an organism has welfare concerns, a subjective experience of life that can go well or poorly. Protecting welfare requires knowing what c...
Article
Full-text available
Mather (2019) has brought together the current empirical research in support of the claim that octopuses possess minds; and the weight of the evidence does appear to support octopus sentience. Being sentient means an organism has welfare concerns, a subjective experience of life that can go well or poorly. Protecting welfare requires knowing what c...
Article
Animal welfare is a concept that plays a role within both our moral deliberations and the relevant areas of science. The study of animal welfare has impacts on decisions made by legislators, producers and consumers with regards to housing and treatment of animals. Our ethical deliberations in these domains need to consider our impact on animals, an...
Article
Full-text available
De-extinction is the process through which extinct species can be brought back into existence. Although these projects have the potential to cause great harm to animal welfare, discussion on issues surrounding de-extinction have focussed primarily on other issues. In this paper, I examine the potential types of welfare harm that can arise through d...
Article
Full-text available
The practice of ‘management euthanasia’, in which zoos kill otherwise healthy surplus animals, is a controversial one. The debate over the permissibility of the practice tends to divide along two different views in animal ethics—animal rights and animal welfare. Traditionally, those arguments against the practice have come from the animal rights ca...
Article
Full-text available
Birch’s criterion for the precautionary principle imposes a high evidential standard that many cases will fail to meet. Reliable, relevant anecdotal evidence suggestive of animal sentience should also fall within the scope of the precautionary principle. This would minimize potential suffering (as happened in the case of cephalopods) while further...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper describes an enrichment program designed for the lemurs at Auckland Zoo with the aim of stimulating all senses. It includes olfactory, auditory, occupational and feeding enrichment, consisting of 19 different items rotated over a monthly schedule. Included in the program was the introduction of a novel feeding device, a T-Bar on which fo...
Preprint
Full-text available
In modern zoos, enrichment programs have become a standard part of animal care routines. Although 'higher' primates usually receive complex enrichment programs, encompassing many types of enrichment, these are less common for prosimians. These animals often largely receive food-based enrichment, as was previously the case at Auckland Zoo, where the...

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Projects (2)
Archived project
Measurement of subjective animal welfare creates some unique problems in terms of indicator validation and making comparisons; in this project I look at some potential solutions.