Corey Lee Wrenn is a UK-based American sociologist and scholar of social movements and human-nonhuman relations. She is a lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent. Corey says: “The magnitude of nonhuman suffering is such that activists can’t afford to take chances. My work is designed to take the guesswork out of social movement mobilization and animal rights activism, and I need your help to implement the findings.”
In these Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
Sentientism is “evidence, commitment & compassion for all sentient beings.”
- The Vegan Feminist Network, The Vegan Society
- Corey’s books: “A Rational Approach to Animal Rights“, “Piecemeal Protests”, Animal Rights in Ireland, Vegan Sociology, Vegan Feminism
- Growing up atheist in the american “bible belt” south, surrounded by deeply religious culture and family
- A cousin gifting a bible saying “I’m worried about your soul!”
- Reading the bible – “a lot of animal killing… this isn’t for me”
- The sociological concern about whether urbanisation and the de-emphasis of religion might leave a moral vacuum (e.g. Durkheim)
- Being “a child of the human rights project” – individual freedoms (e.g. from suffering), equality, social justice
- Mishka joins our conversation ?
- First animal protest at 8 years old “I crawled under my bed and wouldn’t come out” re: animal shelter euthanasia
- Drawing pictures showing the turkey’s perspective at Thanksgiving
- Growing up in a meat-eating, hunting culture as the “lone Appalachian vegan”
- Vegetarian at 13 when realised “That was an actual animal”
- Vegan on first day at university after leaving home
- Granting moral consideration to all sentient beings regardless of category
- Bee sentience & honey
- Erring on the side of caution re: clams/oysters/shellfish
- Wild animal suffering, re-wilding, predators & the romance of “nature”
- Humans often cause over-population through breeding/intervention (e.g. hunting/deer farms) – then say “kill them all”
- Intervening in a more life-affirming way
- The danger to humans of hunting
- Taking the perspective of each individual sentient being
- Environmentalists caring about non-sentient entities but still harming/killing sentients
- Ecosystems matter because we care about the sentient animals in them
- Anthropocentrism & patriarchal thinking
- Re-introducing bison/wolves as a science experiment for human benefit. Shipping animals against their will. Already anticipating culling them
- Moral relativism vs. objectivism
- Intersectionality and identity
- A group/culture agreeing harm is OK doesn’t mean it is
- Not idealising indigenous cultures
- Be firm on compassionate ethics, but be mindful of larger power processes – e.g. colonialism, slavery
- The risk that real oppressions can be focused on selectively because of other motivations (e.g. religious slaughter, dog/cat farming – single issue campaigns)
- Supporting communities that are resisting, rather than dominating from outside (even if well motivated)
- The risk of abandoning the oppressed within oppressed groups (e.g. FGM) because of over-sensitivity & deference to other cultures
- The danger of purely relational moral systems that have no grounding in the moral value of sentience
- Sentience as a backstop vs. relationally defined ethics
- Being critical of single-issue campaigns. Preferring a broader vegan campaign
- The almost religious faith & dogma in advocacy
- Animal advocacy often based on dogmatic assumptions, pushed by “grooming” anti-radical non-profits, about the best approaches
- Backing effective advocacy with evidence, but is it (e.g. Effective Altruism, Animal Charity Evaluators) really independent and scientific? Are there conflicts of interest?
- Faunalytics, The Humane League
- It’s hard not to be righteous when you’re right
- Science is finally starting to pay attention because of the cultural resonance of veganism
- “I was hired because they knew vegan stuff is going to be hot!”
- Big animal non-profits demonised veganism, now changing
- Veganism is culturally normalising & it’s easier!
- “It’s my life mission”
- Valorising psychology (easy science – sorry Kristof!) vs. sociology’s “time to shine”
- People go vegan for the animals but stay vegan because of support in their network
- The irrationality and inefficiency and damage of animal farming
- The meat industry relies on public subsidy – why not refocus those subsidies on a just transition and more ethical, environmentally sound (e.g. plant) agriculture
- A sociological approach helps us address the big picture, structural changes needed. Institutional, not just individual change
- The Vegan Justice League – challenging subsidies and institutional drivers
- Parts of Effective Altruism can feel like “wealthy, western, white dudes” deciding how they can best donate to the “deserving poor” to make themselves feel better without giving up their power or influence or challenging the system of inequality itself
- The Sentience Institute – an example of EA focusing more strongly institutional and structural change
- The challenges of perspective-driven utilitarianism: “Who are you to decide that making cages slightly bigger is better than promoting veganism?”
- Science and social science is coming around, veganism is becoming culturally normal, business is waking up
- We might be approaching a tipping point – feeling more optimistic seeing how much things are shifting in the UK
- Sceptical whether animal non-profits and advocates have actually had much effect vs. this just being a broader cultural shift?
- Covid19 could have been a turning point for animal rights – a missed opportunity in some ways (compared with the impact of Black Lives Matter, for example) – but it has added another positive pressure.
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at https://sentientism.info/. Why not join Corey on our “wall” using this simple form.
Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. Our biggest (~90 countries so far) is here on FaceBook.
Thanks to Graham for his post-prod work. Follow him: @cgbessellieu.