Exploring the benefits between animal well-being and human happiness

A happy owner and her dog attend an IFAW Northern Dogs Project picnic on November 17, 2013. c. IFAWWhat makes you happy?

A variety of actions, events, and material items make people happy. But it is increasingly thought that knowing that others are free from suffering can also be a considerable factor in happiness.

More and more, people are considering “others” to include other species as well.

At the international Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), we have seen evidence from around the world of ways in which animals contribute to people’s happiness and community well-being. We also have millions of supporters who in their passion for animals have derived happiness from helping us ensure a better future for both people and animals.

Also on IFAW.org: Largest-ever Amur tiger release in Russia hopes to signal species return

Happiness is hard to measure. A number of groups, even entire cultures, have attempted to come up with happiness measurements. In the case of the Asian nation of Bhutan, they are promoting their gross national happiness instead of their gross domestic product.

Our current Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -driven system, that measures economic growth and not other factors that matter just as much, can contribute to suffering in many ways, both directly and indirectly. As people pursue material wealth, it is often at the expense of our own well-being, environmental sustainability and the welfare of our fellow creatures.

The current poaching crisis of elephants and rhinos is an example of how a criminal pursuit of profit could end in extinction for some of our iconic wildlife. The culling and mistreatment of companion animals in many communities around the world is the result of ignorance and the resulting misallocation of resources.

People don’t like to see animals suffer and when a community begins working together to ensure its animals are cared for, they are able to improve the lives of dogs, cats, and people in the short and long-term.

That is why IFAW created Humane Community Development (HCD). This unique approach recognizes that every community needs its own unique plan, and that community participation is the key to effective solutions. And people presumably are happier about finding their own solutions.

Also on IFAW.org, support IFAW’s Bosnian flood animal victims rescue efforts .

We believe this synergy between animal well-being and human happiness is one that should be explored more fully and the results taken forward to bring new supporters to the happiness and well-being movement and create policy change. In addition to helping drive the movement, IFAW’s leadership can ensure that our animal welfare ethic is included in this new way to measure success.  

It’s a self-fulfilling cycle: IFAW’s animal welfare ethic and advocacy is used to drive policies that create happier communities which will result in better animal welfare around the world.

IFAW is one of the sponsors of the North American Gross National Happiness Conference in Burlington Vermont on May 29th and 30th.. The conference explores Happiness and Wellbeing: Building a National Movement”.

Kate Nattrass Atema and I will present at the conference. We would love to see and talk with you more about animals and happiness and why happiness matters for people and the planet.  

-- BA

Learn more about IFAW’s current animal welfare efforts at ifaw.org and stay tuned for happiness updates in the coming months.  

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project