Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell & petertatchell.net) has been an activist for human rights, democracy, LGBT+ freedom and global justice since 1967 (petertatchell.net/biography/). 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?”
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 Sentientism.info.
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production.