New research looking at whether rescued farmed animals may suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been initiated at the New York and California branches of the Farm Sanctuary. Lauri Torgerson-White, Sasha Prasad-Shreckengast, and Jenna Holakovsky will study, in a non-invasive way, the newly rescued animals and assess their stress.

In humans, PTSD is a mental and behavioural disorder that develops from experiencing a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, child abuse, domestic violence, or other threats to a person’s life or well-being. There is no reason to believe that if non-human animals experience trauma (like the everyday life of an average factory-farmed animal), they are not going to develop a similar disorder. 

Although the study, which started a year and a half ago, has not finished yet, on 26t July 2023 the researchers gave a speech to donors, supporters, and other interested people about its progress. Answering questions from their audience, they said, “In humans, only 20-30% of individuals who experience trauma develop PTSD. For our study, this means that we are watching individuals’ behaviour as they are enrolled in the study, knowing that it is likely that the majority will not develop PTSD. This means that we do not have a firm goal for our sample size, as we will perform analyses as we go.”

They said the following regarding their ethical approach to the research: “As stated in our research ethics guidelines, invasive research is prohibited, and biological samples (such as saliva) must be collected non-invasively. Although most of this study is observational and thus, non-invasive by nature, we are also trying to analyse salivary cortisol for each participant. This requires collecting voluntary or – at a minimum – non-invasive saliva samples. In order to ensure our methods are not stressful or annoying to residents, we are careful observers of body language, and we always give the individual an opportunity to opt-out of participation.”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.