If you have ever seen pictures of people doing yoga with goats or sunning their butt-holes(1), you may have assumed it is California, but that is unfair. It is just as likely to be any state on the west coast.

In my town, people who claim they love poor people hate lawnmowers run by...poor people.(2) Yet they love animals that, at fantastic cost and with no benefit to poor people, are hired out and fenced into areas to...mow lawns. There is a whole section of Facebook devoted to pictures of grazing animals eating in cities, our municipal website publishes dates and locations so California parents can share the experience with their kids. Clean, natural lawn mowing. Behind an electric fence.

When I was a kid, hanging out with the animals was called "work", but I grew up well-adjusted despite being raised on an organic farm. I didn't know how great it was, being organic wasn't cool back then, it was just called being poor. We couldn't afford glyphosate or hay so we picked weeds, used hoes, and our steers grazed. Behind an electric fence. 

So being poor boosted my mental health? No, a new paper from UC Davis(3) says it was instead watching the animals walk around eating scrub. The results were based on a pilot sheep grazing program and then surveys of people watching the sheep and random people on the Internet. 

If that isn't the most California study you'll read this week I don't know what is.

It is not the masks, the bikes, the weather, or the student loans being paid off by old people that make California students so chill, it must be the sheep. Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

People who watched the sheep reported feeling less ‘very stressed’ or ‘stressed’ than those who did not experience live sheep mowing.

To you and I, that might lead us to conclude the stressed people were probably working while rich elites were sitting in Adirondack chairs painting watercolors and watching the sheep.(4) Sitting around painting stuff sounds like a pretty good life. Who says money can't buy happiness?

Well, California, actually. Despite being the world's richest state. and the fifth largest economy in the world if we were a country, California government is telling us we're unhappy in too many ways to count. We have 10,000 regulations for every business because government says our neighbors will be evil capitalists without them, and you can't walk into a building without being told you'll get cancer. Inside the building will be warning labels on all of the individual products giving you the cancer. 

California leads the US in prescription anxiety medication per capita, though I admit hobos leaving syringes and feces on your million dollar Pacific Heights property with government approval can be pretty stressful. Yet a lot of the respondents reporting stress were UC Davis students. How can students be under any stress? Either their parents are paying their tuition or the Biden administration will wave his hand and make their student loans disappear. Life should be good.(5)

Students are always a problem in surveys because it is such a limited demographic. It is why psychology is not really science.(6) And yet in the press release these anecdotes are listed generously.
Wrote one student on the Instagram feed used in the survey: “I loved seeing the sheep right before my chem midterm; it helped me distract myself and not stress right before taking the exam.”
And then we get virtue signaling phrases like "inclusive." I have to tell these people, there is a good reason they are separated by an electric fence. There is nothing inclusive about nature.

Are young people really at so much greater risk of psychological trauma than everyone else ever, and thus may need more sheep gazing? Oddly, the people saying so the loudest are the same politicians who botched the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic (don't cut travel to or from China, Republicans are just racist), botched the response (the CDC, thanks to Republicans), botched mitigation and transmission (get a marijuana brownie before you go to the tattoo parlor but don't get a haircut or we'll call you a Republican) and then raised spending by trillions of dollars, which is going to create new stress for everyone when taxes go up again.

There is still a lot less stress than those kids in 1944, 1864, and 1780 had, so I think ours will be fine if old people with agendas stop convincing them they aren't.

Let them paint in front of animals if you think it will help, though. We need to put those sheepherders back to work and it is a whole lot cheaper than prescription anxiety drugs or the mental hospitals government banned.


(1) You wish I was joking about white people who took up exposing their naked rectums to Sol because they think it is Taoist science. Anything not real science is good on the coasts.

(2) We hate the highest gas taxes and gas prices in the US but hate oil refineries. We hate ships and railraods but also hate pipelines. We hate natural gas but hate having the highest electricity costs in the country. We hate having the highest state income tax but hate any business that isn't a service business. We hate that there aren't enough houses for the poor but hate dams that would store water and make it possible to build more houses. I could go on.

(3) It is still an agriculture school but as people continue to flee San Francisco, the demarcation point for not being a Frisco expat, with all the eye-rolling that entails when people from Frisco insist you not call it Frisco, is increasingly "east of the 5" and Davis, California is west. Just like you have to leave some behind during the zombie apocalypse to save yourself, UC Davis may be lost in the culture war so the rest of the nation can build defenses. 

(4) Nothing condemned you with faint praise more than being told you were an "essential worker" during the pandemic, because it simultaneously meant you were important but government was okay with you dying. The criteria was baffling. Wait staff for the governor at the French Laundry in Napa were essential, as were marijuana stores and tattoo parlors, but we were told not to get a haircut for 5 months in 2020 or our grandparents would die. 

(5) Young people have always felt the need to 'live in important times.' Ask a Baby Boomer what the most important period in US history was, and they might say the 1960s when they were protesting. Imagine the horror of Baby Boomers when they are told they are racist, sexist, classist, and every other -ist by young people because some humans being jerks is still happening, just like it always has. 

For Gen X, maybe the important time was the 1980s, when they boycotted Coca-Cola because the South African government was racist. They feel like it made the difference.

(6) "We basically have a science of undergraduates," psychology legend Professor Paul Ekman said at the Being Human conference in 2012.