11 Ways to De-Stress for Finals Without Distressing Animals

Making sure you de-stress during finals week is important. Nonstop studying is hard. But you won’t be prepping for the dreaded exams for long, and they’re usually followed by a long vacation.

What’s more distressing than finals—and not temporary—is the misery endured by animals used in petting zoos. Some universities let these cruel businesses hold “encounters” on their campuses in an attempt to help students de-stress, thus supporting a lifetime of stress and trauma for them.

Sad llama in a petting zoo

Forcing animals to endure a never-ending cycle of transport, unfamiliar environments, irregular feeding and watering schedules, mishandling, and crowds of strangers isn’t fair. And it’s unsafe for students: Many people have been bitten or mauled by animals used by petting zoos, and countless others have become sick—some have even died—after contracting diseases at such events.

Sad donkeys in a petting zoo.

While connecting with animals can be calming and fulfilling, there are humane ways to do that—and going to a petting zoo on campus isn’t one of them. Plus, there are countless ways to de-stress without involving animals at all. Try these relaxing, safe, and humane options:

Take a yoga class (but not the kind that exploits goats).
Follow a yoga video in your dorm, gather some friends to practice outdoors, or head over to a local studio. Check online to find out if you can get a student discount!

People in a yoga class

You can use an app like Headspace for guidance, seek out a yoga studio that offers guided meditations in a group setting, or just meditate on your own. Meditation can even look like snuggling with your animal companion, closing your eyes, and taking deep breaths. It’s all about being present and breathing.

Visit a national park, forest reserve, or botanical garden.
Nothing beats getting some fresh air. Look for a place where you can admire flowers and other plants, take a hike, have a vegan picnic, or spot birds and other small animals in their natural habitats. It’s a hard thing to mess up.

Young woman hiking on a mountain

Explore a museum.
Taking a leisurely stroll through a beautiful building is a great way to get your mind off finals.

See a show.
Let it all out while singing and dancing at a concert, be dazzled by an animal-free circus, or relax in a dark, air-conditioned movie theater.

Crowd in front of a band at a concert

Watch a nature documentary on Netflix.
Our Planet, Planet Earth, and Blue Planet are just some of many awe-inspiring documentaries available on Netflix. Or you could look online for cameras that stream video of animals in nature.

Visit a local open-admission animal shelter.
There are lots of companion animals in open-admission shelters who are waiting for permanent homes—schedule a visit at a local one. It’s a great reminder of the importance of adopting dogs and cats rather than buying them from pet stores or breeders.

Happy dog in a shelter

Make some vegan treats.
Baking and cooking can have therapeutic effects. Not only do you get to take your mind off finals while making something delicious, you also get to enjoy the finished product. You could even share with friends and family. Or not. We don’t judge.

Connect with animals at a farm sanctuary.
Getting to connect with animals at a sanctuary is a great way to give some love and be reminded of the reasons we shouldn’t eat, wear, or otherwise exploit them. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) has rigorous standards of sanctuary management and animal care for its members. GFAS-approved facilities never breed animals or use them in commercial activities, so look for that accreditation beforehand. There’s nothing more relaxing than visiting a great sanctuary.

Visit a water park or an animal-free theme park.
A combination of vitamin D and H2O is a formula—no studying necessary!—for success when it comes to de-stressing. Getting some sun with friends at a water park means pure, unadulterated fun—and we can never have too much of that. Or have a good time checking out an animal-free theme park.

Water slide

11. Visit an all-vegan spa.
It’s important to nourish your body both inside and out, so relax and unwind at a tranquil, all-vegan spa like Crème de la Crème. By visiting one, you can immerse yourself in the art of self-care in an eco- and animal-friendly environment. Sounds like a win-win to us!


Trying to de-stress during finals never needs to be done at the expense of someone else. If you hear that your school is planning to host a petting zoo on campus, e-mail [email protected] so that we can help you get the cruel plans canceled and replaced with a humane, ethical option.

Text peta2 to 30933 for ways to help animals, tips on compassionate living, and more!

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