Food & Drink Magazine

Vegan Lifestyle = Increased Happiness?

By Yonni @vegandthecity
Yesterday a friend of mine who has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology forwarded me a piece written by Sandra Higgins, BSs (Hons) Psych, MSc Couns Psych, Counselling Psychologist about the effects on a positive mood through living a vegan diet and I found it rather interesting ~ thought you might too! Ms. Higgins funds the Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary, with 70 beautiful animals that have been rescued. If you feel so motivated, please click the link and to help fund this special program.
Here is the article ~ I would love to know what you think!

I think it is useful to examine the impact of diet on human health, including psychological health, from a wider perspective that the mere nutritional contents of our food.  As a positive psychologist I see that we, as humans, are continually searching for happiness.  I think it is worth considering that our dietary habits can cause tremendous unhappiness to others.  


I ask this consideration not to be disagreeable but because my personal experience, and the experience of others who have adopted a vegan lifestlye, is increased happiness upon cessation of harm to others.  We are all too often motivated out of self-interest.  I do not suggest that our motivation for engaging in morally acceptable behavior towards others should be to feel better; but it is a welcome, and I think unexpected, ‘side effect’ of veganism.  In my case, my sense of fulfillment, meaning, personal flourishing, social interconnectedness, peace of mind, and cessation of a history dogged by depression is significant.
Eating animal products, including so called humanely produced animal products, is environmentally unsustainable.  The latest United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report states that unless we adopt a vegan way of eating the planet will suffer an exacerbation of world hunger, fuel poverty and climate change.  Ecopsychological studies suggest a direct relationship between the health of our environment and our mental health.  How psychologically can we currently be given the devestation we inflict on our environment?
What about the people who must work in the industries that provide animal food products?  Suicide research organizations continually place farmers in the high risk occupations group.  Psychologists studying perpetrator induced traumatic stress (PITS) are finding a significant prevalence of PTSD among slaughterhouse workers (Dillard, Jennifer, A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1016401).  Regardless of how humanely they are reared, those animals must be slaughtered by someone for humans to eat them.  
Most important of all, eating animals or their products hurts them.  Even organic or free range or so called ‘humanely-raised’ animal food products are the result of lives where freedom and the right to a natural lifespan are absent (http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/chickens/happy-eggs.htmhttp://www.peacefulprairie.org/freerange1.html).  Few people, including me, until recently, realize that laying eggs, like childbirth, can be distressing, painful, and even fatal for hens, who, in the wild, would only lay one or two clutches a year, for the purpose of raising chicks.  Animals who have equal sentience to us cannot provide us with their bodies for consumption without suffering.
Serendipitously, my path to positive psychology led me to an investigation of the lives of farmed animals and a career in humane education.  My connection with other animals has given me more joy than I ever imagined possible.  Chickens that at one time were food that I purchased at the grocers are now among the most precious beings in my life. (http://edenfarmanimalsanctuary.com/matilda.html).
That has been my personal journey.  I don’t imagine that it is the prescription for happiness for everyone but it prompts me to ask the question:  When we examine the facts of how our dietary habits impact upon other animals, other people, and the environment, how happy can we truly be if we continue to perpetrate misery on others?  

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