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Sentience Mosaic hosts live online debates where a variety of topics related to animal sentience will be discussed. Details of our next debate are below, take part in the current debate if it is live, or alternatively set an email reminder. Debates and comments are moderated by the Sentience Mosaic editors to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee that every question will be posted. Once a debate is completed it will move to our past debates archive, where it will be available to read.

Do non-human animals have humour?

Sentience Topic: Joy, Pleasure Guest: Adam Cook and Benjamin Mee  Date: 23 Jun 2015  
Global Issue: Agriculture, Biomedical research, Conservation, Human- wildlife conflict

Join us on 23rd June 2015 at 3pm (BST)

Humour is a complex cognitive function, and is an important aspect of human behaviour. Humour has been part of the behavioural repertoire of humans for thousands of years. Theorists exploring the evolution of humour have suggested that it has distinct fitness advantages, including increased reproductive success by enhancing ones social status, and providing social information to others. In relation to non-human animals, research has shown that primates and rats laugh when tickled.

Humour and laughter are closely related, however they can occur independently, humour is a cognitive process and laughter is often the resulting behaviour. In the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin says “Laughter seems primarily to be the expression of mere joy or happiness”. In light of this do non-human animals experience humour? How can this complex cognitive function be assessed in animals? Can the promotion of humour and laughter be promoted in animals under our care? During the discussion our panellists will address these questions. They will cover what we currently know about humour and laughter in animals, and how such knowledge should be used in the future to improve animal welfare.

Adam Cook, Head of Conservation and Research, Dartmoor Zoological Park, and Benjamin Mee, Owner and Director, Dartmoor Zoological Park, will share their knowledge and opinions on this fascinating topic.

Once the discussion starts please post your questions/comments below for Adam and Benjamin to answer. Alternatively send your questions to sentience@worldanimalprotection.org in advance. Our panellists will answer your questions live on the web!

Did you know?

Play behaviour has been observed in many species of crocodilians. Dinets, V. (2015). Animal Behavior and Cognition.