Parallels in sources of trauma, pain, distress, and suffering in humans and nonhuman animals

J Trauma Dissociation. 2012;13(4):448-68. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2011.652346.


It is widely accepted that animals often experience pain and distress as a result of their use in scientific experimentation. However, unlike human suffering, the wide range of acute, recurrent, and chronic stressors and trauma on animals is rarely evaluated. In order to better understand the cumulative effects of captivity and laboratory research conditions on animals, we explore parallels between human experiences of pain and psychological distress and those of animals based on shared brain structures and physiological mechanisms. We review anatomical, physiological, and behavioral similarities between humans and other animals regarding the potential for suffering. In addition, we examine associations between research conditions and indicators of pain and distress. We include 4 case studies of common animal research protocols in order to illustrate incidental and experimental factors that can lead to animal suffering. Finally, we identify parallels between established traumatic conditions for humans and existing laboratory conditions for animals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation* / ethics
  • Animal Welfare* / ethics
  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory / physiology
  • Animals, Laboratory / psychology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cats
  • Dissociative Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology
  • Dogs
  • Ethics, Research
  • Fear
  • Haplorhini
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Object Attachment
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain / veterinary
  • Psychophysiology
  • Social Environment
  • Species Specificity
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Trust