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[Health] Wellbeing & Veganism: Connecting with animals


In this third opinion piece as part of our Wellbeing & Veganism research programme, Researcher Network member, Summer Philips, considers the link between nature, animals, happiness, and wellbeing.

If humans could purr, one would imagine they would do so frequently. We are tactile and emotional animals and experiencing happiness and pleasure are favourite pastimes. We don’t need detailed scientific studies to be able to acknowledge the feelings we experience when we are emotionally uplifted, however, the scientific theory is interesting. Evolutionary theories suggest that humans didn’t evolve into their current physical form and then have emotion conveniently dropped in, but that emotion has evolved with us on our journey to where we currently stand. (As an aside I would like to note that we stand on a branch of the evolutionary tree and certainly not at the top of it! I would suggest reading Frans De Waal[1] for more on what he terms ‘antropodenial’.)

Have you ever spent time with an animal and noticed an increase in your mood or sense of wellbeing?

We are happy in the company of those we love and cherish. Not just our family, lovers and friends, but also non-human animals who are part of our lives. This may be companion animals who share our homes or those we connect with in other ways, from animals in sanctuaries that we may spend time at, or the wild rabbit or deer that you catch out of the corner of your eye during a woodland stroll, and get lost in wonderment. Some of these non-humans are likely to return your sentiments. The cat that purrs sitting on or next to you, the dog who wags their tail and follows you around, the goldfish that excitedly shimmies up to the glass when you enter the room (this last example being in reference to an old boyfriend’s fish who lived for 14 years, and never failed to come and ‘say hello’ each time I arrived). This may be the cow and her calf rescued from slaughter after the cow was spent of milk, and you know by the way they nuzzle you and actively seek out cuddles that they know you helped them.