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Science Speakeasy: Elephant in the (Court) Room

Separate admission fees apply
Adults (18+)
Thursday 22 June, 8:00pm - 9:45pm
Illustration of an elephant in a courtoom with pink background.

One year on from the creation of the UK’s Animal Sentience Act, Life will be exploring the concept of sentient life and will be delving into the implications of granting an animal ‘personhood’ status.

Join us at our Science Speakeasy as we chew the cud over questions like: can a cat have a sense of humour? Does a chicken have a best friend? Can you hurt a hamster’s feelings?

Should there be a sentience hierarchy or should dogs and ducks share the same pecking order? Join us as we debate until the cows come home – or until we run out of terrible puns.

Terms and conditions

An alternative night out just for grown-ups!

Ticket prices

Adult (aged 18 and over) £8.00
Carer (please bring proof) FREE

Meet the panel

Alistair Ford

Dr Alistair Ford (Chair)

Alistair is a lecturer in Geospatial Engineering at Newcastle University, using mapping data and computer models to explore sustainable and resilience cities. He’s particularly interested in the way that land-use and transport planning can be used to adapt our urban areas to climate change. He loves chairing the Science Speakeasy events because he gets to have fascinating discussions with knowledgeable people about subjects he knows nothing about! Alistair’s twitter.

Dr Rajesh Reddy is a panelist at Life's Speakeasy on Animal Sentience.

Dr Rajesh Reddy

Raj directs the Animal Law Program at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregan (USA), where he teaches Animal Legal Philosophy, International Animal Law, and Emerging Topics in Animal Law. Outside of Lewis & Clark, he sits on the boards of Minding Animals International and the International Coalition for Animal Protection, which is seeking to advance the world’s first umbrella treaty to protect the well-being of individual animals. 

Dr Heather Browning is a panelist at Life's Speakeasy on Animal Sentience.

Dr Heather Browning

Heather is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Southampton. She specialises in animal sentience and welfare, and was part of the research team who produced a report reviewing the evidence for sentience in cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans, leading to an amendment of the UK’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act to include their protection. Alongside her academic career, she has also worked as a zookeeper and animal welfare officer. Heather’s twitter.  

Dr Vivek Nityananda is a panelist at Life's Speakeasy on Animal Sentience.

Dr Vivek Nityananda

Vivek is a BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow at Newcastle University. He researches the ecology and evolution of sensory and cognitive behaviour, with a focus on attention and emotion in insects. He has a PhD in Animal Behaviour from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and has worked at the University of Minnesota, St Paul and Queen Mary University of London. He has previously been a Marie Curie Research Fellow, a Human Frontiers Science Program Fellow and a fellow of the College of Life Sciences at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. 

Professor Sarah Wolfensohn is a panelist at Life's Speakeasy on Animal Sentience.

Professor Sarah Wolfensohn OBE

Sarah is a professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Surrey’s Veterinary School. Alongside her academic career, she also runs an independent consultancy on animal health and welfare, and is a RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) Recognised Specialist in Laboratory Animal Science. Her areas of expertise include animal welfare and lifetime experience training and assessing, as well as ethical evaluation. She has published many books, research papers and review articles on the topic, and was awarded an OBE for services to animal welfare in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2012.

Additional information

This event is part of Life Science Centre’s Science Speakeasy programme – a series in which important and often controversial topics are debated in a quirky and often irreverent way. No topic is taboo, so these events are not suitable for anyone who is easily offended!


We do, however, ensure that all discussion is based on correct science to avoid the spread of misinformation. Questions to the panel are encouraged, or you can just sit back and enjoy the event. Limited tickets available. Pay bar available on the evening.

‘The speakers were excellent and their collective knowledge of the topic was great. The debate was lively and interesting- enough to keep a non-science novice engaged. The atmosphere was relaxed and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions.’

‘A very enjoyable event in a relaxed atmosphere. A well informed debate from very knowledgeable guests covering separate but related areas of expertise, without getting too “heavy”. A wide range of audience members provided a number of interesting questions.

‘The whole setup is excellent, and it’s lovely to be able to enjoy a night out that is original and not just another sweaty bar or expensive restaurant. It’s nice to connect with culture and knowledge.’

Getting here

Life is located in Times Square, just a two minute walk from Newcastle Central train and Metro station.

Driving? Times Square Car Park is just around the corner. The sat nav reference for the car park is NE1 4AD (opposite Jurys Inn hotel). Look out for Centre for Life and/or Times Square Car Park signage to direct you.

Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4EP