Mellor DJ, Diesch TJ, Johnson CB. When do Mammalian Young Become Sentient? ALTEX [CD-ROM]. 2010;27(Special Issue 1):281-286


Published literature and studies from our laboratory show that neurological development in mammalian young at birth ranged from being exceptionally immature (e.g. newborn marsupials), through moderately immature (e.g. newborn cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, rats) to mature (newborn cattle, deer, goats, sheep, horses, pigs, guinea-pigs). In all cases, brain electrical activity indicates that under normal circumstances none of these young exhibit consciousness before birth. This is the case with exceptionally and moderately immature young because their neurological development is not adequate to support consciousness until several months and several days, respectively, after birth. Neurologically mature newborns do have the neurological capacity for consciousness before birth, but this is usually prevented by the operation of a number of neuroinhibitory mechanisms that are unique to fetal life. After birth these newborns exhibit consciousness within minutes or hours. The evidence for this and the implications for safeguarding the welfare of fetuses and newborns of these different mammals in experimental settings are discussed.

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Link to journal: ALTEX - Alternatives to Animal Experimentation