Do Sad Cows Make Sad People?


Seen online: “Stoner thought for the day: What if when we ate meat, we swallowed all of the sadness of the death of that animal and that’s what’s making people depressed?” What a thought-provoking question! Is there anything that might back it up though?

The evidence

Animals can definitely get stressed. And, just as with humans, when they get stressed they release certain chemicals, which can be retained in the body (interestingly, there is a theory that, in humans at least, crying helps detoxify the body from these chemicals). Additionally, there is evidence that chemicals in animals can transfer to humans through consumption of their meat – which is one of the reasons that bovine growth hormones are banned in Europe. Additionally, there is a correlation (and evidence of a causal relationship) between high-meat diets and depression.

So to sum up: There’s evidence that moods can change the chemical makeup of an animal, evidence that chemicals can be transferred through consumption (and impact the consumer), and evidence that eating more meat is linked to depression.

More information needed

Still, there is still a lot that could be studied to make the connection (if any) between eating sad animals and depression more clear. Perhaps one of the biggest ways to study such a connection would be to 1) compare the health and mental well-being of free-range animals with their non-free-range counterparts, and 2) compare the health and mental well-being of those who eat exclusively free-range meat with those who eat exclusively non-free-range meat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find any studies on these – and it’s further muddled by the fact that “free-range” doesn’t really mean anything.

That said, based on the evidence so far, it’s probably not a bad idea to abstain from eating meat as much as possible and get more plants and veggies into your diet – especially if it’s unprocessed.

Casey has a background in writing and journalism – and is known for his mediation and discussion skills. In his spare time he enjoys absorbing, dissecting and disseminating information — particularly in U.S. politics, religion, technology, science, music, gaming, and pop-­culture.

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