Sabine Brels

“Time has come for non-human animals to be globally protected in UN-iversal law” – Sabine Brels of the World Federation for Animals

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

Sabine is legal advisor to the World Federation for Animals. In 2014, she cofounded the Global Animal Law (GAL) Association and led work on the creation and update of the first complete Animal Welfare Legislation Database.

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 of our conversation is on our Podcast here on Apple and here on all the other platforms​​​​​​.

We discuss:
0:00 Welcome

1:24 Sabine’s Intro – Animal Law & International Governance for Animals

3:57 What’s Real?

  • Learning about the beauty & value of the natural world from Sabine’s grandmother
  • “I believe in what I can see but also in things I can’t see that are obvious”
  • Looking into the eyes of a cat & sensing it’s “soul”
  • Attending Catholic classes, but always preferring a more holistic, non-religious worldview
  • Finding Catholicism restrictive, seeing the downsides of religion, deciding not to attend communion
  • “We feel this notion of respect for all beings”
  • Respecting all life is common to most religions
  • Solidarity & compassion
  • The commonalities between religious/naturalistic worldviews. “Souls” vs. sentience. Energy & information processing. Universal connectedness.
  • “When I say ‘soul’ I mean that the being I see has a consciousness”

15:34 What Matters Morally?

  • A mother who was a nurse, motivated by human compassion
  • Developing a similar sensitivity for animal suffering from a young age
  • A close relationship with a German Shepherd dog
  • Being brought to a bull-fighting event in France at 4 years old. Seeing an animal being tortured to death – “feeling ashamed of my own species”. “I wanted to intervene.” Adults told me it wasn’t real – then I saw the butchery behind the arena
  • “These animals needed some people to defend them” – “I felt it was my moral duty”
  • The challenges of going vegan in France
  • Facing health concerns from parents
  • At 18, asking a doctor how to go veg*an and being told “it’s not possible to be healthy”
  • Moving to Canada. Finding it much easier there to go vegetarian then vegan. Avoiding zoos & animal tested products
  • Social context can make change hard or easy

25:52 The Future – will the UN take sentient non-human animals seriously?

  • Law as a response and a driver of change
  • Non-human animals in international governance
  • Justice for human and non-human animals
  • “The laws were made by white men”
  • Extension of rights and justice to other adults, women, children, then other species
  • From “Humanity” to “animality” or “Sentientity” (could include artificial or alien sentients)
  • Animal law: personhood, cruelty, animal farming/testing regulation, environmental law – the value of working on many fronts
  • UN & regional & national progress re: animal protection & welfare
  • Links between env, human & non-human animal well-being
  • The most important things are those all sentients (inc. humans) have in common. In part because of our shared evolutionary history
  • SDGs to Sentientist Development Goals, UDHR to a Universal Declaration of Sentient Rights?
  • Separate initiatives for non-humans (e.g. UDAW) vs. considering all sentients?
  • Crimes against humanity are done to animals every day. “Genocide”, torture
  • The scientific evidence for sentience in ever-more species
  • World Organisation for Animal Health
  • UN resolution on animal welfare in 2022 and the proposed UDAW
  • Climate change, pollution, biodiversity, human health (e.g. COVID) are all pushing us in the same direction
  • “It’s important for our own survival to change”
  • The danger of humans making exceptions for animal exploitation. Greenwashing & ethicswashing & “welfare”. Animal ag lobbying
  • Young people will accelerate progress
  • UNSG report stated the need to live in harmony with nature by 2050. “The stakes are huge”
  • Individuals can pull personal & institutional levers of change
  • “I’m pretty positive for the future.”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at​​​​​​​​​​​​​. Join Sabine on our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form​.

​Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our global, online groups. The biggest so far is here on FaceBook​.

Thanks Graham for the post-prod.

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