Bel Jacobs headshot

“Animal rights is a social justice issue now” – Fashion Activist Bel Jacobs- Sentientism Episode 140

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism podcast.

Between 1999 and 2014, Bel Jacobs was Style Editor for Metro. The fall of Rana Plaza in 2013 forced a re-assessment; today, she is a writer, speaker and activist with a focus on animal rights, the climate emergency and the toxic fashion system. Bel has taken part in and moderated numerous panels for brands and organisations and has been interviewed about her work in activism, alternative systems in fashion and culture change.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome
01:48 Bel’s Intro

  • Journalism, fashion editor, social & animal justice activism
  • “The world of fashion sucks you in”
  • Co-founding The Islington Climate Centre & running The Empathy Project

04:19 What’s Real?

  • (I mis-spoke & asked “what matters?” – sorry!)
  • Growing up in #hongkong … rich, vibrant, urban
  • “Really loving animals” first companion animal at 3 “they were these beautiful things”
  • Stray animals & wet markets “but no one talked about it”
  • Food “a very big deal in that culture”… valuing the exotic e.g. suckling pig / turtle soup
  • “At least they were honest… there was no pretense at compassion”
  • “I tucked in because everyone else tucked in”
  • “I held this love of animals whilst eating them for a very long time”
  • Growing up “broadly agnostic” with a Jewish father & a mother who moved through various religions
  • Saying the Lord’s Prayer every morning at school
  • “I just couldn’t correlate why there were so many sad things happening & god didn’t seem to be very active in sorting it out”
  • Coming to #spirituality through “the extent of the suffering… abuse… cruelty”… “I could not rationalise it”
  • “I’m going to drive my love to them through thought & visualisation & #meditation “
  • “My god is the natural world”
  • “Animals are the sentient representations of nature”
  • “I do like to get my hands in the soil”

19:34 What Matters?

  • “Religions are man-made constructions… constructed in times long gone… by powerful men… You cannot not question them.”
  • Suffering as central to understanding good & bad

23:46 Who Matters?

  • “Even as we talk most people will think we’re talking just about humans”
  • Moral philosophy’s focus on humans
  • The rationalisations that support animal exploitation “I had an innocent idea of what authority does”
  • “I would volunteer in animal shelters then go home and have a meat dinner”
  • A journalist trip where they helped a sheep get free from barbed wire then “had lamb for dinner”
  • “A mad world”
  • “My awakening… was my encounter with the #Yulin dog meat festival… I started to question the nature of humanity”
  • “It all needs to stop… we need to re-frame… re-write our relationship”
  • “Simply because they can’t speak out & they can’t fight back”
  • “I don’t want to go back to that ignorance ever again”
  • Denial “don’t tell me, don’t show me”
  • The risks of Yulin as a single issue
  • Elwoods dog meat
  • Hierarchies of species (e.g. dogs vs. pigs)
  • Rational, emotional & cultural drivers of ethics
  • Capabilities, intelligence & sentience “of course they’re sentient!”
  • #MelanieJoy’s #Carnism
  • #Anthropocentrism #Ecocentrism & #nature “for me animals are my starting point”
  • “Almost everything I do is geared towards trying to help reduce the suffering of sentient beings”
  • Health & environmental reasons for ending animal exploitation
  • “Accord the animals the respect they deserve”
  • “We care about the ecosystem then we’ll go home and have a chicken dinner”
  • Serving animal products at #COP27 !
  • “It’s shocking that some of the most committed climate activists I know are still eating meat & dairy”
  • The erasure of animals & their worshipping “we don’t ever see what’s happening to the real creature”
  • Lynda Korimboccus’ “Peppa Pig Paradox” https://youtu.be/_YjyCRc4ym8
  • “Once I see this addressed then I’ll have hope”

48:18 How Can We Make a Better Future?

  • “The solutions are all out there… what’s lacking is political will”
  • #Animalrebellion
  • “#Veganism addresses social injustice… suffering… the most dynamic act an individual can take”
  • Plants as a silver bullet for the agri part of the #climatecrisis
  • Land use
  • “Animal agriculture will come to an end”
  • Water use “You can keep a community going for a week with what you give one dairy cow in a day”
  • Feed conversion ratios & #foodwaste
  • #gretathunberg
  • Systems theory… “start as an individual… align w/your values”
  • “Meeting people where they are”… coping with being uncomfortable… “pushing people one step further”… “leading by example”
  • “Animal rights is a social justice issue now… This is oppression on an unbelievable scale”
  • JW: “It’s a core human competence – finding excuses not to change”
  • “We need to model new ways of living”
  • Modes of activism “you’re aware and ready to take action”
  • Extinction Rebellion “I will happily sit in the street for quite a while”
  • JSO Just Stop Oil “A lot of them don’t want their grandkids to die in an inferno… and they are working to the science”
  • “I wouldn’t glue myself to the road – I just feel bad about disrupting ordinary people”
  • “Their courage will be recognised in the future”
  • The Islington Climate Centre, street speeches
  • “Everyone’s so busy shooting the messenger” and then ignoring the cause
  • #degrowth & population reduction vs. tech bro optimism vs. decoupling
  • “Degrowth came to me as a fashion activist” realising that all these corporate plans were undermined by their growth plans
  • “We need to substantially shrink the fashion industry… by 75-95%… to remain within planetary boundaries”
  • De-economic growth
  • “I’ve seen how garment workers are treated”
  • Jason Hickel & “Less is More”
  • The Global North “maybe we don’t need to shop as much” while still enabling the Global South (and everyone) to flourish
  • JW: “The workers in the value chain… they may well be exploited and precarious but if the industry drops by 80% they won’t have a job at all.”
  • Listening to union leaders in the Global South “we just need more space and resources to protect ourselves”
  • Colonial attitudes re: global supply chains
  • Enabling human & animal flourishing as the guide
  • Maximising the self at the expense of “the other” (other humans, other sentients, the planet)
  • The Empathy Project.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Tarabella and Denise for helping to fund this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

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