The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness: a turning point in the consideration of animal welfare?

The recent publication of the “New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness” marked an important turning point in the way researchers and society view animal consciousness. Signed by 287 philosophers, ethicists, ethologists and neurobiologists, this declaration highlights the realistic possibility that all vertebrates and many invertebrates possess some form of consciousness. In many sectors, such as agri-food, healthcare, cosmetics, luxury goods and textiles, the question of the relationship between research and the use of products derived from animals in the broadest sense is an integral part of business models. Honey, dairy products, skins, enzymes… The integration of a precautionary principle concerning animal consciousness could lead to an evolution in practices in laboratories, in companies and in the choices of the most ethical investors.

Invertebrate Consciousness and Regulation

Since laboratory animals were first regulated in the EU back in 1986, there have been significant developments. In 2010, the European directive included cephalopods following studies showing their cognitive abilities. Decapod crustaceans could be next on the list. These legislative evolutions are based on solid scientific data and require a constant re-evaluation of animal consciousness. Of particular note:

Research practices and environmental responsibility

The New York Declaration initiates a collective process involving researchers, public authorities and economic players (companies, financial partners). Indeed, this declaration questions current practices and the prevailing acceptance of animal consciousness at 3 levels:

  • Evolution of research practices: Research practices must evolve to take animal consciousness into account. Protocols can be adapted to reduce the number of animals used and improve their welfare. For example, the use of electric shocks to study aversive memory in bees has been reduced.
  • Ethics and animal welfare: Consideration of animal consciousness raises ethical questions about the farming of insects as a source of protein. Research shows that sublethal doses of pesticides cause brain damage in bees, underlining the importance of assessing the impact of human practices on insects.
  • Environmental responsibility: The New York Declaration calls for a broader reflection on our responsibility towards animals and the environment. This reflection is part of the One Health movement, which recognizes the interconnection between animal, ecosystem and human health. It is crucial to understand and minimize the damage caused to insects and other animals, as this affects the biodiversity and ecosystems on which our survival depends.


The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness represents a call to rethink our relationships with animals and the environment. By recognizing the possibility of consciousness in a wide variety of animals, this declaration encourages ethical and practical changes in research, animal welfare and environmental protection. It underlines the importance of treating all living beings with respect, and of taking their well-being into account in our decisions.

On a daily basis, Ksapa works on the ethical issues that need to be integrated into various research and development reflections – responsible technologies, for example, in the development of consensus between stakeholders on acceptable good environmental and social practices within a given timeframe. Ksapa can work alongside you to take account of these new considerations and their implications for your organization’s strategy and operating methods.

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Author of several books and resources on business, sustainability and responsibility. Working with top decision makers pursuing transformational changes for their organizations, leaders and industries. Working with executives improving resilience and competitiveness of their company and products given their climate and human right business agendas. Connect with Farid Baddache on Twitter at @Fbaddache.

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