For the Very Youngest Animals, Pain Management Is Critical

Dr. Downing is in a unique position to consider this issue from all angles; she's not only an internationally recognized expert on pain, but she’s also working toward a master’s degree in biomedical ethics. That meant our discussion dealt not only with the medical aspects of pain in young animals but also with the philosophical underpinning of why we traditionally haven’t used it.

“The Cartesian model,” she says. “René Descartes was brilliant, but he got some things wrong. One of the errors he made was this concept that if you can’t talk, you can’t think, and you can’t have consciousness. That meant if you can’t talk, you can’t have pain.”

For Dr. Downing, pushing the profession forward has become her life’s work.

“Once you know something, you can’t not know it anymore,” she says. “Animals feel pain. For me, it seems self-evident that we need to change our practices. And we will.”

Knowing Dr. Downing as long as I have and watching the work she has done to help animals, I have no doubt that’s the case.


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