Humanism will Evolve into Sentientism – Peter Tatchell – Sentientist Conversations ep:76

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

Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell & has been an activist for human rights, democracy, LGBT+ freedom and global justice since 1967 ( Watch the Netflix documentary about his life, “Hating Peter Tatchell“. He directs the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

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.” As well as the video above, the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here on the other platforms.

We discuss:
0:00 Welcome

1:10 Peter’s Intro – a lifetime of activism

  • Teenage campaigning: indigenous rights, death penalty, Vietnam war
  • A wide spectrum of campaigns: LGBT+ rights, social justice, free speech, Balochistan, West Papua

3:07 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in Melbourne in 1950-60s under a right-wing government
  • Evangelical Protestant Christian Bible literalist parents
  • “You take what your parents say, usually, to be what is right”
  • Studying science at school & starting to question
  • Being horrified at 11 yrs hearing about the racist bombing of a black church in Alabama
  • Black civil rights & Martin Luther King & Liberation theology
  • “If god is omnipotent, why does evil happen?”
  • Teaching Sunday School at 16
  • Being told evolution was a “satanic theory” by abusive step-father
  • Dropping the hateful, vengeful old testament god & holding on to more compassionate new testament values
  • Homosexuality was still a criminal offence in 1969
  • “I was genuinely afraid that if I came out, they [my parents] would turn me in to the police”
  • “For both of them, homosexuality was a terrible, mortal sin – almost on a par with murder & rape”
  • How Peter’s mother has come to support LGBT+ rights
  • Becoming an atheist & humanist at ~20

19:10 What & Who Matters?

  • Still holding to some of the compassionate values of Christianity, but those values aren’t exclusive to religion
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Global, not “western”
  • Human rights are evolving & expanding. Yet to extend to LGBT+ / disability
  • AI/robot rights? Peter’s 1970’s degree dissertation on cyborg sentience & rights
  • Pre-human proto-morality
  • Looking after the family cow at 9 yrs old. Seeing the cruelty of circuses/zoos at 10.
  • “I knew they had feelings… but I never thought they had rights”
  • Being revolted by seeing chickens being killed “but I was still eating the meat”
  • Considering non-human animal rights in the 1970-80s & reducing animal product consumption
  • “Other animals are sentient beings – they have feelings”
  • Writing an article in the 1980’s about aliens farming humans
  • “We humans are animals – there is no great divide”
  • “Factory farms are akin to concentration camps for animals”
  • Being shocked by the parallels between human & non-human suffering & oppressions
  • The power of social norms re: religion & animal product consumption
  • AIDS & the flaws of animal-based medical research
  • Ending animal testing is “It’s ethically right & good science”
  • Taking the perspective of the sentient other (human or not)
  • Interests & needs might vary but our ethical system should be consistent

55:55 The Future

  • Universal human rights was a big leap… “the next leap is to all sentient beings”
  • “I don’t think any of us can crystal ball gaze the future… future generations will decide”
  • The arc of the universe towards justice can reverse too
  • Progressing ethics through educating, informing & campaigning
  • Pioneers pushing unpopular ideas that formed the new norm
  • “I’m confident it [Sentientism] will win out – it will become the norm”
  • “Humanism is on the right track… but we need to extend that”
  • “Maybe there will come a point when Humanism ceases to be – that Humanism evolves into Sentientism. I would like to see that. And I would like to be part of the process that makes that happen.”
  • “It took a battle to put LGBT+ within the human rights framework… I think the same will happen with Sentientism.”
  • “The more people hear about it the more people will be convinced morally & ethically it is the right way to go… limiting rights to human beings is a very limited moral framework.”
  • “We are all small cogs but it takes many small cogs to make a great machine”
  • “Reason, compassion, love – these are unstoppable forces”
  • It is love that motivates me… for all sentient creatures.

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

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

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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