The majority of Brits believe that cows, pigs, goats and chickens experience similar emotions to cats, dogs and other animal companions, despite the fact they are willing to eat or wear some, and not others.
A Vegan Society online survey, conducted ahead of World Kindness Day (13 November), found 48% of non-vegans “agree”, and 42% “agree somewhat”, that farmed animals can experience similar emotions to animal companions. That means, in total, 9 in 10 (90%) Brits acknowledge there is very little difference between the two groups.
Dr Maureen Tomeny is a former clinical psychologist-turned sanctuary volunteer who recognises similar emotions in the animals in her care, to that of her former human patients.
She said: “It’s clear to me that we underestimate how much farmed animals are like cats and dogs – and like ourselves too. I spent over 30 years of my professional career working as a clinical psychologist and have seen the impact of neglect, abuse and trauma on humans.
"There is no doubt that animals are sentient, can feel pain, fear, anxiety and grief. They can also feel happy, show great affection for other animals, experience contentment and more."
However, for those who consume animal products and have not had the opportunity to connect with farmed animals, the findings of the charity's latest survey points to what psychologists call cognitive dissonance – a discord between our values and our actions.
In their 2016 paper, published by Personality and Psychology Review, Researchers Brock Bastian and Steve Loughnan suggest meat-eating can conflict with 'deeply-held moral principles' and so people seek to justify their behavior.
They further explain the ways in which people do this including considering farmed animals as emotionally inferior or by viewing their consumption of animals as a collective action influenced by society.
Our survey demonstrates that, when prompted, most individuals who consume animal products do recognise that farmed animals have emotions just as our animal companions do, and our Be AnimalKind campaign invites them to consider this further.
Elena Orde, Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer at The Vegan Society, said: “We’re using the upcoming World Kindness Day to ask people to extend the love and respect they have for their cats, dogs and other companion animals to all other non-human animals. The results of this survey highlight what we already know – that many struggle with that pull between their natural response to animal cruelty and suffering and the food on their plate.
“Our latest campaign, Be AnimalKind, has compassion at its core. As a country, we love the animals we share our homes with. Be AnimalKind is all about expanding out that kindness to the animals we are raised to think of as food or clothing.”
As part of Be AnimalKind, The Vegan Society is also working in partnership with film director Juseo Moreno. His new film, When Pigs Escape, which tells the story of Matilda - a pig who escaped to give birth peacefully in a nearby wood - will premiere on 19 November. An interview with Jusep Moreno is going live on our website 11 Nov.
To find out more about our campaign head to www.BeAnimalKind.com.
 *Survey titled “Share your thoughts”, conducted online in October 2022 via the Attest platform. 2000 non-vegan respondents, working age nationally representative for age, gender and home region.