On August 21, 2022, Lesley A. Sharp, Barnard’s Barbara Chamberlain & Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ’30 Professor of Anthropology, published new research in the academic journal Science, Technology, & Human Values. The work, titled “Care and the Cowboy Boot: Interspecies Responsibility and the Wobbly Boundaries of Lab Animal Personhood,” examines various aspects of our complex relationships between human and non-human primates focusing on the experiences involving chimpanzees who have moved from laboratories to sanctuaries.
While animals are often constrained and valued primarily as sources of scientific data in laboratories, Sharp found that in one sanctuary, staff successfully individualize animals through creative methods of personalized care designed to challenge interspecies boundaries. She argues that paying attention to the values assigned to non-human ways of being, interspecies encounters, and various inanimate objects figure in the shaping of professional responsibilities and compassion. She argues that definitions of personhood that prioritize humans might be expanded to include objects, animals, and interspecies interactions as a means to expand understandings of the morality of lab animal care.