Jenny Splitter

“The conversation has to start with you” – Jenny Splitter – Journalist and SciMom Founder

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on YouTube and here on Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe and share!

Jenny (@jennysplitter and jennysplitter.com) is an award-winning journalist & science writer covering food, agriculture, climate change, biodiversity, health & technology. Her work has been published across a wide range of media outlets including Vox, Forbes, Observer, The Washington Post, Popular Mechanics and New York Magazine. Jenny is a co-founder & contributing editor to the science communication project SciMoms. She is also a podcast host on the Animal Studies channel of the New Books Network & her newsletter, FutureFeed, chronicles change in the food system.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

We discuss:
0:00 Welcome

1:05 Jenny’s Intro – journalism and SciMoms

2:09 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in California as reform Jewish
  • Reform Judaism: “It’s definitely not heavy handed with the God stuff”
  • Most of the parents were atheist and agnostic. It’s mostly about the ritual and the tradition and the history
  • Jewish philosophy re: responsibility, community obligations & making the world better
  • It’s less about the rules than the discussion
  • Moving from a naive view of a caring god to “at some point I just didn’t really worry about it any more”

7:58 What Matters Morally?

  • Complexity in reform Judaism moral discussions at Hebrew school
  • “Closer vs. further away from God”
  • “Of course I’m angry – I’ve just been told by my friend I’m going to hell”
  • SkepChick & other atheist communities
  • “Do no harm”, community, avoiding bad people, getting into the complex stuff
  • COVID & re-thinking communities
  • The evolution of morality, good & bad
  • Moral scope & consideration
  • Writing about the climate impacts of meat & going reducetarian, then just stopping eating meat
  • Enjoying substituting out animal products in cooking
  • Not wanting to do the big philosophical debate but changing behaviour anyway
  • Morality then behaviour or behaviour then morality?
  • Philosophical arguments vs. “real people” conversations
  • Emotion, stories & logic
  • Mollusc/invertebrate sentience?
  • Assessing the suffering of farmed animals & fish
  • Garrett Broad @ Fordham & why we care about some animals & not others
  • “My cat is a vicious murderer”
  • We don’t have to understand non-human animal sentience perfectly to be confident they can suffer
  • Bio/ecocentrism, conservation and environmentalism. “We have to be thinking about ecosystems”
  • Ecosystem services
  • Indigenous practices re: non-human animals & environment
  • “Perilous bounty” by Tom Philpott
  • #JustTransition for industrialised & indigenous cultures

33:52 The Future

  • An end to animal farming, fishing & exploitation?
  • Latent popular support for a ban on factory farming?
  • Regeneratively grazed animal agriculture isn’t the answer
  • Factory farming is more efficient and less climate impactful than free-range!
  • A focus on factory farming can be unhelpful
  • Parallels re: unfounded resistance to GMOs
  • What would a “meat free future” look like?
  • Helping animal farmers transition (even escape!) “I don’t have the Tyson foods of hemp or mushrooms to sell to”
  • Rancher Advocacy, #Transfarmation, Miyoko’s Creamery
  • Switching government subsidies to fund transition
  • Can journalism plant seeds in people’s minds?
  • We need to get more specific about how to transition
  • Motivated reasoning (on both sides). Identity, culture, ethics
  • Tobacco, fossil fuels, animal agriculture industry parallels
  • Capitalism & marketing
  • Journalism & language about non-human animals & ethics. People are Googling “healthiest plant-based burger” not “the inner life of a chicken”
  • “Humanity” is too hard to figure out. The conversation “starts with you”
  • Arguments & social media zingers vs. active listening & productive conversations. Vaccines, food, ethics…
  • Righteousness can start the conversation!
  • Universal compassion doesn’t mean weakness
  • The role of privilege
  • Being cringy on Instagram
  • The Boomer mindset.

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