Animal Pain: The Limits of Meaning

  • David B. MorrisEmail author


The biomedical literature on animal pain is thin, despite widespread reliance on animal models in pain medicine. The International Association for the Study of Pain distinguishes sharply between nociception and pain. Pain, says the IASP, is “always subjective” and “always a psychological state.” It traffics with meaning. This essay distinguishes human pain from the pain of animals and concludes that animal pain is largely unknowable: an instance of the otherness of the other. Biases against racial and ethnic minorities demonstrated in the undertreatment of pain suggest that dismissive attitudes toward animal pain reflect wider anthropocentric and biomedical difficulties in responding to otherness. The difficulties of understanding animal pain would advise caution in clinical applications of research based on animal models. It also suggests—in a speculative conclusion—that we will not effectively address human pain until we have already adequately addressed the other-ed pain of animals.


Computational Thought Homeless Veteran Human Pain Animal Pain Pain Belief 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EngishUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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