Biology of Suffering BIOL5117

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Biodiversity One Health Vet Med
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will give the student an advanced understanding on animal consciousness, the biology of pain and suffering, welfare and cognitive functions and the physiology of stress.


10 hours of lectures and 4 hours of tutorials

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses



BIOL5126 Key Research Skills (Semester 1)

BIOL5115 Animal Welfare Science (Semester 1), BIOL 5114 Animal Ethics (Semester 2) and BIOL5127 Animal Legislation & Societal issues (Semester 2) for specialisation in Animal Welfare Science


Students will prepare an essay (2000 words; 100% of the course grade) where they will critically discuss current scientifc evidence for different types of animal suffering.

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to provide students with an advanced understanding of issues on consciousness, sentience and suffering in animals and how this relates to ethical and legal considerations.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students, with reference to the evidence base, will be able to: 

■ Discuss critically the physiological basis of the stress response, the latest methodological developments on how to measure stress, and how these can inform welfare research.

■ Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the physiological basis of pain, discuss its evolution in the animal kingdom, and be informed by the developments at the forefront of pain research.

■ Discuss mechanisms underlying fear, anxiety and emotional disorders, and the challenges inherent in assessing such mental states.

■ Discuss critically the principles and concepts of disturbance and a critical awareness of its impacts on captive and wild animals.

■ Apply knowledge and understanding of pain and stress to critically reflect on ethical issues and legislation.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.