The mental experience associated with physical and emotional pain, hunger, thirst, excess temperature, illness, isolation, crowding, mutilation, and so on.
Common Misuse: Some animal advocates influenced by utilitarianism justify their chosen strategy for helping animals on the basis that it will "reduce suffering" more than other approaches. The problem is that this usage implies that suffering, a mental experience, can be quantified or measured. It would be no more sensible to argue for one law over another because the favored law will "increase love" more than the other.
Because concepts such as suffering or love are subjective, the use of them in ways that appear to be objective or scientific can serve the purpose of rationalizing nearly anything. This error can become extreme when speaking of "reducing the suffering of billions of animals," which, though a noble aspiration, does not refer to anything that can actually be measured or verified. Does being confined for years in a small wire cage hold "more suffering" than being crowded together with thousands of others in a dark, filthy shed? Is one form of abject misery "better" than another form of abject misery? No one knows. Other animals are individuals, just like humans. They each suffer in their own way, based on their individual personalities, life histories, and physiology.