Ensuring Humane Treatment of the Great Apes
By Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H.
This opinion piece was published on July 22, 2008, in The New York Times (online).
To the Editor:
As a physician who treats asylum seekers who are torture survivors, I want to offer another reason for granting basic legal rights to apes: the trauma these animals suffer when subjected to harmful experiments or other abuses may not be so different from what humans experience in similar circumstances.
Several colleagues and I recently conducted a purely observational study to determine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in chimpanzees previously used in experimental research and now living in a sanctuary in Louisiana.
I was astonished by how many displayed behaviors that overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other trauma-related disorders. Our findings follow many other studies demonstrating mental anguish in traumatized animals.
Suffering is far from a uniquely human experience. It is time for us to widen our circle of compassion and follow Spain’s lead in granting legal rights to apes.
Director of Research Policy
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, July 14, 2008