According to an article recently posted on the American Psychological Association’s website, chimpanzees kept in laboratories experience the same symptoms as humans diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder: “hypervigilance, dissociating, violent self-attacks, insomnia, ritualistic behaviors, inability to tolerate touch and limited social skills”. The article states that this points to the idea that “[i]n the face of suffering and fear, trauma is common to us all.” Lab chimps undergo multiple traumatic experiences, such as confinement, loss of agency or power, physical injury, as well as the fear and stress of being in such an unnatural environment.
This news really does not surprise me, considering chimps and humans have many similarities. And it doesn’t surprise me that living in laboratory conditions could result in PTSD, no matter which animal species experiences those conditions. The fact that some people will be surprised by this information simply furthers the species-ist attitudes that currently exist in our culture.
I think the article is really well written, and I hope that this leads to more awareness about what animals in labs are experiencing. Hopefully people will understand that experimenting on animals is not the answer, and there is rare occasion that it is justifiable, if it ever really is.
However, I fear that this will lead people to only be aware of the damage we are doing to those that are the most similar to us, namely chimpanzees and perhaps other members of the primate family. Emotion, fear, and suffering is experienced by many animal species, possibly all of them. Where do we get off saying that we are somehow special? We don’t have to look really hard to see that we are more like non-human animals than we are willing to admit.
The article cited a website, Release Chimps, that is worth a look.
What do you guys think? Do we have too much of a narrow focus? Do we need to address this issue for animals outside of the primate family?