"'I love what you do for me' - isn't love!" - Cat Besch - Vietnam Animal Aid & Rescue Founder - Sentientist Conversation - EP:79

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

Cat (@CatBeschVN) founded and leads Vietnam Animal Aid & Rescue. She is also a writer & activist addressing many non-human animal issues.

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 all on the other platforms too.

We discuss:
0:00 Welcome

1:10 Cat's Intro

  • Founding Vietnam Animal Aid & Rescue
  • Growing up in Virginia, USA
  • Studying International Relations in Washington DC
  • A political/military family

3:10 What's Real?

  • Growing up as a liberal Lutheran with very religious parents
  • The church as social fabric
  • Figuring out that "I just don't really believe in any of that crap"
  • High school & Baptist society in Alabama
  • The church seeing all sex as shameful… "holding virginity in such high esteem"
  • Feminism & Islam. "Headscarves & Hymens" by Mona Eltahawy.
  • "The way the institutions look at sex & sexuality just makes you want to put your fist through a wall"
  • "A whole bunch of girls that think they're going to hell"
  • That was the turning point. Everything started to crumble
  • Not picking at the church too hard as it was the social fabric. "Life is hard enough at 16." I left it silently on my own
  • The hypocrisy of religious compassion & judgementalism
  • Atheists & agnostics are not immoral people
  • "I attended church… I took communion… my sins are flushed… now I can go back to being a dickhead"
  • Religious compassion is often conditional & constrained
  • The immorality of even "moderate" religious worldviews (e.g. hell, sexism, homophobia)
  • "Women are not emotionally stable enough to be leaders in the Catholic church"!
  • "I found it oppressive." Leaving the church was a moment of liberation
  • Travelling & living in many religious cultures
  • Starting the "Let's not be an asshole" religion
  • Being wrong. "I used to hate vegans", now I'm "on the side of all sentient beings"
  • Everybody has a chance to change
  • "I just don't know" as a strong naturalistic stance

25:09 What (& Who) Matters?

  • An early empathy for animals "they were my best friends", but living in an environment where killing sentient beings was normal
  • I never met a vegan in the horse riding world
  • "I love what you do for me" isn't love
  • Being angry at our previous selves for not seeing
  • Thinking all vegans must be "dirty hippies"
  • Meeting first vegans hosting couch-surfers in Mongolia
  • Being challenged "You love animals but who are you eating?"
  • "I looked at dairy & was appalled"
  • Going vegan at 34
  • Advocating for fishes after diving
  • Living with Louise the chicken
  • We can philosophise, but compassion can also come from lived experience
  • Jonathan Balcombe's "What a Fish Knows"
  • Humanity to Sentientity
  • Animal ethics in Vietnam. Dog meat & chicken meat
  • Rejecting dog meat is not a gateway to veganism
  • Millions more likes for resisting dog farming vs. chicken farming
  • Being worshipped for saving a dog by the "gods of bunny-hugging dumb-assness" but don't talk about veganism
  • There's no philosophical grounding to rejecting dog farming then having chicken for lunch
  • Generous funding available for resisting dog funding but not for other animals
  • The racism that underpins much single-issue activism against dog farming
  • Bio/ecocentrism
  • How non-human & human animals are seen in disasters
  • Psychedelics & experiencing everything as connected

57:45 The Future

  • Sentiocentrism, naturalism leaves space for broad pluralism
  • So many un-founded beliefs: MLMs, Goop, Anti-Vaxx, Flat Earth, Religion, Cults…
  • Telling the RSPB "You know chickens are birds, right?"
  • Social indoctrination re: religion & animal ethics
  • Rebels are too rare
  • Welfarism vs. abolition
  • Welfarism gets all the money
  • "I lost 60 grand [of charitable funding] by being an outspoken vegan"
  • "If all those big organisations finally just stood up for animals, period!"
  • They take so much money from people diametrically opposed to the idea that they have to stop or change anything
  • Ban dog meat but "humane" farming of other sentients is fine
  • "Vegan is not a dirty word" - It's a moral baseline!
  • Gary Francione
  • #JustTransition paths
  • Oregon's IP13
  • Driving change in different cultures. Going local & getting out of the way.
  • "I suffer from delusional optimism"
  • "Even the worst people can change"
  • "People are assholes & people are amazing"

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

Join Cat on 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.

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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