Can insects feel pain?

This piece presents quotations and references supporting and opposing the hypothesis that insects and other lower invertebrates can suffer.

Opinions in support of sentience

Evidence consistent with, or possibly suggestive of, sentience

From a review of invertebrate learning (pp. 473-76):[2]

The progress achieved over the last 10-15 years in studying a wide variety of forms of learning in simple invertebrate animals is quite striking. There is now no question, for example, that associative learning is a common capacity in several invertebrate species. In fact, the higher-order features of learning seen in some invertebrates (notably bees and Limax) rivals that commonly observed in such star performers in the vertebrate laboratory as pigeons, rats, and rabbits.
[… W]e have reason to hope that the distinction between vertebrate and invertebrate learning and memory is one that will diminish as our understanding of underlying mechanisms increases.

Opinions opposing sentience

Additional views

Jennifer A. Mather:[1]

the physiological systems that control responses to what we call pain mostly are universal across the animal kingdom, and snails often are used as models for such responses. Can we treat them as having sensations that resemble ours without being concerned for their welfare when they do?
Still, it is less easy to take that leap of faith and presume parallels with how you feel when the animal concerned is completely unlike you. Insects, for instance, can walk normally with a couple broken-off legs and survive with apparent unconcern as a parasite is eating them up inside, when presumably we would be in excruciating pain. Does that mean they cannot feel pain? I asked a friend who works with ants wha she thought about this apparent inability to feel the pain we do. She said that she spilled a drop of acetone on an ant by accident one day and that it had recoiled and tried to wipe the substance off its abdomen. Maybe it is still pain, just responding to different stimuli. Alternately, maybe it is just an automatic grooming reaction. Because nuclear radiation can kill us without our feeling a thing, humans too do not always respond with pain to possible tissue destruction.

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