04 Oct World Animal Day: why animals deserve it
Today is World Animal Day! Since 1931, countries all over the world have been celebrating 4 October as ‘Dierendag’, as we call it in the Netherlands. Perhaps you think it’s all about commercial purposes these days, as we are overloaded with (inter)national holidays. But I’d like to show you some (scientific) reasons why animals deserve to get some extra attention once a year.
From Francis to you
The reason we celebrate World Animal Day on 4 October goes back to the Middle Ages. It is the feast of Francis of Assisi, who is memorialised as the patron saint of animals and ecology. Today, we celebrate animal life in general and our relationship with the entire animal kingdom. Events and campaigns are organised to raise awareness for endangered animal species, and to improve animal welfare. And, most likely, you think of World Animal Day as the day you give your pet some extra treats and hugs!
Animals in science
Although it’s often a loaded topic, I would like to use this opportunity to reflect on animal use in scientific research. If it weren’t for laboratory animals, science would not have been where it is today. So let’s be grateful for the knowledge they have provided us with. Fortunately, there are already less laboratory animals used in research these days, thanks to ethical regulations and improved alternatives.
In addition, we have learned a lot from observing animals in their natural habitat. Watching these wild animals in natural environments is not only informative, but also lots of fun! You can read this blog about nature documentaries if you enjoy watching wildlife yourself!
Pets instead of medicine
Did you know that owning a pet can make you happier and healthier? That could make you love your pet even more! Several studies investigated the effects of pets on happiness and well-being of their owners. Let’s take a look at some of the findings:
- The Minnesota Stroke Institute discovered that cat owners have 30% less chance to suffer a heart attack. In this way, owning a cat reduces the chance of dying from a heart disease. These effects might be due to cat owners having lower levels of stress and lower blood pressure. Presumably, owning a dog would lead to comparable results.
- Cats and dogs can prevent children from developing allergies. Apparently, children growing up in homes with a cat or a dog are less likely to get certain types of allergies, including allergy to pets. These children probably develop a stronger immune system, from which they benefit when they grow older.
- Pets can help you through psychological difficulties. For example, they can be very helpful for people suffering from depression or PTSD. Pets can help you bring more structure in your days, make you feel less lonely, and provide and require love and attention. Having a pet elevates the level of oxytocin in your body, a hormone that causes bonding and affection. For people who suffer from traumatic experiences, this can help to process the trauma and reduce anxiety.
These are just a couple of examples of how animals are special and important for people. Do you have a personal reason to celebrate World Animal Day? If you have any animals at home, I’d say: give your pet(s) those extra treats and hugs today; you’ll both benefit from it!