“The Creative Lives of Animals” – Author Carol Gigliotti – Sentientism Episode 135

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

Carol is an author, artist, animal activist and scholar whose work focuses on the reality of animals’ lives as important contributors to the biodiversity of this planet. She is Professor Emerita of Design and Dynamic Media and Critical and Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr University of Design, Vancouver, BC. CANADA. Her most recent book is The Creative Lives of Animals.

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.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

02:11 Carol’s Intro

  • Starting out as an actress but “I didn’t like saying other people’s words”
  • Printmaking, art, animal rights activism, animation, writing “I felt like I had a lot to say”
  • #TomRegan & Nancy & “The Dante Series”
  • Criticising biotechnology & bioart (people using animals as objects in their art) “lots of friends in the arts who no longer are really my friends”
  • Helping develop #Criticalanimalstudies
  • #ecoart
  • “It’s very new for people to take animals seriously”
  • Writing Creative Lives: “Animals are individual creative beings”
  • Anthropocene & biodiversity
  • “I was writing so much about animals as victims… [they] are much more than that”

10:30 What’s Real?

  • Italian Catholic upbringing in #pittsburgh
  • Rational father & “strongly emotional” women
  • “Eating the body of Christ”
  • “I’m not a practising Catholic”
  • Informed by Buddhism “but not a practising Buddhist either”
  • “The naturalistic way of looking at things – it’s really important”
  • “Creativity itself is an unknown quantity”
  • “A universal, multi-species creativity?”
  • Differing perspectives on the same reality
  • #EdYong ‘s “An Immense World”
  • Reading Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” after a bad car accident
  • #Physics & “On creativity” by #DavidBohm & “spooky action at a distance.” “We are all connected… in a way we’re not aware of”
  • “Once you start reading… you start to be critical of things… my parents… never loooked into what I was reading :)”
  • Becoming sceptical of #catholicism quite early. 8th grade “I gotta get out of here”
  • Dante’s Inferno as a metaphor for animal experimentation
  • Humility is critical
  • #Wicca & #witchcraft & #spirituality
  • “Animals are struggling just like we are”
  • The dangers of reifying animals or “nature”
  • Do we risk “missing so much” (e.g. spirituality) if we’re “relentlessly naturalistic”?
  • Being a #DESdaughter & the experience of sickness “I don’t trust medicine in the way many people do… I go & study things”
  • Life after death & limbo “When you contemplate death you definitely go in other directions”

37:20 What Matters?

  • “The Bible played very little role in my [Catholic] home”
  • “Sex plays an enormous role in discovering that you don’t really think being Catholic would be a good idea”
  • Fighting with the religious idea that “sex is wrong”

40:50 Who Matters?

  • Butcher godfather was very upset when gave up veal “You’re eating a baby cow”
  • “I was always a weird little kid”
  • “Being ill” helped with independent thinking & sympathising with non-human animals
  • “Now I trust myself to say ‘no'” and to act on it
  • #Vietnamwar during college
  • “Once you see something you can’t unsee it. And once you can’t unsee it you have to do something about it.”
  • Turning down drugs in high school “I was crazy enough as it was”
  • #martinlutherking ‘s “eyes on the prize” as a shield
  • Sentience & animality & “the subject of a life”
  • “Why write a book if you know what you’re going to write about”… vs. discovery!
  • “Some animal rights people really hate people”… “we’re sentient beings too”
  • “Compassion is central”
  • “Art, writing, music, theatre… can be very valuable in activism”
  • The dazzling variety of animal creativity
  • Pointing out the creativity, power & essentiality of animals (e.g. beavers!)
  • The risks of focusing on creativity & sapience & intelligence
  • “There are so many different ways of being”
  • The role of #agency ? (even in oysters) “all of life has agency”… Some indigenous views of everything having agency
  • Dangers of “everything matters so nothing does” flattening & #nihilism
  • Creativity as a universal quality
  • “Everything matters… what do we do about that?”
  • Plants
  • The distinctive value of sentient beings & compassion
  • Marc Bekoff
  • “Postmodernism… just didn’t do anything for me” & relativism “there’s really no right or wrong”
  • “Postmodernism has passed”

01:09:34 A Better Future?

  • Optimism about activism “we are all in this together… this planet needs protecting”
  • Pessimism about how human & non-human animals are still treated
  • The news “is so depressing”
  • A new grandson!
  • “I am not going to be around to see people’s attitudes really change towards animals… I think it will”
  • “You can’t give up hope!”
  • “Over 25 years as a vegan… I’ve seen enormous change”
  • “The arts & creative practices play an enormous role in change… these ideas sneak up on you through the arts”
  • “A lot of artists don’t want to take on that kind of responsibility”
  • Ethics in virtual environments and Bertolt Brecht “you have the ability to change & change the future!”
  • “Everything we do makes a little change”
  • “I finally gave up yelling at people… and now I just model behaviour”

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

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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Denise for funding this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

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