Nick (@NickPende & theconversation) is a Sociologist who researches social movements, social change & Critical Animal Studies. He is a member of The Institute for Critical Animal Studies, the International Association of Vegan Sociologists & The Australian Sociological Association. Nick co-hosts the Freedom of Species podcast & radio show on Melbourne’s 3CR community radio station & also co-hosts the Progressive Podcast Australia podcast with his partner Katie.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
01:22 Nick’s Intro
- Animal advocacy & social justice activism – doing them & studying them sociologically
- Hosting the Freedom of Species podcast & radio show
04:50 What’s Real?
- Growing up non-religious w/agnostic (or atheist?) parents
- Joining a religious friend at Sunday School
- Being very anti-religious at 5-6 years old (a mini Richard Dawkins?) “This doesn’t make any sense at all”
- “Religion or spirituality has zero impact on my ethics”
- Softening somewhat…
- “Myq Kaplan probably started off where I was before taking mushrooms… I’ve just never taken the mushrooms”
- Non-supernatural analogues for spirituality/supernatural: Flow states, rituals, habits
- The ethical problems of believing without evidence e.g. anti-vaxx
- Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality fanfic
- Being open minded but not wasting our time on every implausible claim
- Religion as a brake on social progress (sexism, homophobia, speciesism…)
- Religion’s positive & negative functions in society
- Reforming religions to conform w/secular ethics
- Threatening children w/eternal torture
22:35 What Matters?
- A Christian friend: “You seem like quite ethical people but you’re not religious!”
- Socially progressive, liberal parents, so ethics came naturally
- Apathetic & apolitical as a kid. “I was more into ice hockey”
- Punk rock as a gateway into ethics & politics. Bad Religion
- Protesting the Iraq war
- Anti-war, pro-env, human rights, then animal rights & veganism “It just made total sense”
- Justice first, then compassion. More a rational than an emotional response
- Challenging hierarchies. Human & non-human
- “It didn’t make sense that I was above my dog”
- Parents had been vegetarian in the 1970’s
- “I was always pro animal… but hadn’t really made the connection”
- “Punk celebrates being an individual – in a positive sense”
- Going vegetarian (central to most campaigns) then vegan (learning about eggs & dairy – “Liquid Meat” by Propagandhi https://open.spotify.com/track/2qp6cnGooZl3YwnuiHNA0x?si=40de5ff2890940c6)
- Anarchism. Rejecting arbitrary hierarchies (class, ethnicity, gender, species…)
- A sacred indigenous tree was cut down in Victoria. It mattered because of the impact on the people, not the tree itself
- Light/dark green environmentalism
- “Circle of Life” as a justification for eating animal products
- Sentiocentrism as the only moral, non-arbitrary discrimination
- Grey areas of sentience (bivalves, simple insects). Prudence & “benefit of the doubt”
- Links between forms of oppression, human & non. Caution required – both philosophically & practically
- Intersectionality including species
- Kimberlé Crenshaw, Carol Adams
- Risk of instrumentalising forms of oppression for other ends
- Marilyn Decker: While advocating for non-human animals… at least recognise human oppression & don’t contribute to it
- Two way conversation & learning not just “I’m going to push the right answer at you” in both vegan & atheist outreach
- Are vegans & atheists so convinced they’re right on their topic that they assume they’re right about everything else?
- “Most people eat animals because most people eat animals”
01:03:00 A Better Future?
- Are human psychology & social norms the biggest problems?
- From welfarist to vegan advocacy. Vegan Freak radio. Francione, Yates
- “I was more effective because I was talking about what I believed”
- Animal Rebellion. Systemic change.
- When faced w/cognitive dissonance people adopt strategies instead of changing
- Involving non-vegans in driving for a plant-based system
- Claiming perfection/purity opens us up to criticism
- No new animal agriculture
- “People have different levels of opportunity to make ethical decisions”
- Companies generate demand, not just consumers
- Veganarchism: “Living the world you want to create”
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.