David Michelson headshot

“Farmers say they want to take care of their animals… let’s give them that opportunity!” – David Michelson of YesOnIP13 – Sentientism Episode 90

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

David is an activist & chief petitioner of the Yes On IP13 campaign (www.yesonip13.org & @yesonip13) which aims to outlaw the harming & killing of sentient animals in the US state of Oregon. That’s without exceptions for animal agriculture, hunting, research or other forms of exploitation. Originally with a background in psychology & public health, David’s switch to activism began after bearing witness to pigs being killed in gas chambers.

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.” In addition to the video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here elsewhere.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

01:29 David’s Intro

  • Being new to activism
  • IP13: Criminalising killing & breeding animals in the state of Oregon
  • “We’re asking for what we want”
  • Linking the academic & the real world

04:03 What’s Real?

  • Culturally Jewish/Christian family branches
  • Religion was just a label
  • Having a Bar Mitzvah to “side with my mother… it made religion seem arbitrary to me”
  • “They taught me how to read Hebrew but never taught me what I was saying”
  • “It wasn’t a worldview… it wasn’t used to make sense of the world”
  • “Sitcoms were more of a determinant of what’s real”
  • Meeting people who had done atheist & animal outreach
  • “Free yourself from those harmful social norms!”
  • UFOs, conspiracy theories & religion
  • There’s enough awesomeness in reality
  • “I was angry when I learned that Santa wasn’t real”
  • Investigating Santa as a child w/a hidden camera
  • Why do we lie to children about so many things?
  • Homeopathy, “stop the steal”, astrology, tea leaves…
  • “Psychedelics made me more naturalistic & gave me the final push to go vegan as well”… connectedness
  • Buddhism & Plum Village monks
  • Talking to a flat earther
  • The challenge of having enough, but not too much scepticism
  • Epistemological & methodological naturalism
  • “Pretend naturalism” (only considering evidence supporting what you already want to believe)
  • What evidence would change your mind?

24:55 What (& Who) Matters?

  • Intuitive ethics
  • Vegetarian at 14 “I didn’t want to eat animals”
  • “‘I’m not very much of an animal lover”
  • “I thought that cows had to be milked” & eggs were “picked up like an easter egg hunt”
  • Going vegan, then learning about dairy/eggs
  • Watching Dominion then getting involved in activism
  • “A baseline of avoiding violence”
  • Compassion for victims vs. judging human actions
  • Judging moral agents (actions/decisions) vs. the impact on moral patients/victims (outcomes)
  • Freedom from fear & violence as a need of individual sentient beings
  • Non-violence is the the best way of meeting all of our needs
  • Free will & determinism & moral luck
  • Restoration/rehabilitation/protection/deterrence vs retributive justice
  • Non-violent communication, Rosenberg
  • Beauvoir’s “Ethics & Ambiguity”
  • “The freedom to oppress others isn’t a freedom we should respect”
  • Anti-Vaxx: bodily autonomy vs. putting others at risk
  • “Everything comes back to sentience”
  • Fear of violence as an imposition on freedom & flourishing
  • “The animals live mostly under fear”
  • “Only sentient beings have these sorts of needs”
  • Still feel connected to non-sentient things but there’s a distinction
  • “You can’t grant rights to a river & not to a pig”
  • “There’s no sentience at the species level”
  • Wild animal suffering, whether human caused or not
  • “All suffering has to matter, surely?”
  • “Until people start caring about the animals they’re directly hurting…” will they care about wild animals?

53:58 How Can we Make a Better World?

  • David’s IP13 Nov 2022 election ballot measure in Oregon: “A bottom up approach to legislation”
  • Helpful naivety: “You need to be naive to challenge institutions like this!”
  • 112k supporting signatures, then on the ballot, then a public yes/no vote
  • Animal abuse is “intentional reckless injury of an animal”
  • If you’re enjoying the physical or sexual abuse you’re bad. If you’re abusing for other reasons – that’s fine
  • Victims’ perspective is ignored
  • Remove exemptions (farming, hunting, pest control, fishing, research) from Oregon’s animal cruelty law. Criminalising injuring & breeding & killing of animals
  • “create a sanctuary state”
  • “I don’t know if it’s the most effective but it’s authentic” (vs. welfare)
  • Anyone can donate!
  • Laws influence ethics
  • “We can choose what is right & wrong”
  • #JustTransition plans, property status, sanctuaries
  • Give farmers the opportunity to really care for animals
  • The goal is to stop this everywhere, not just Oregon.

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

Join our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook. David and I are already there!

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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