“Veganism is the secular manifestation of Ahimsa” – author Jordi Casamitjana – Sentientism Episode 104

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

Jordi is an ethical vegan, a zoologist and a veganism content writer and consultant. He has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. He became well-known for securing ethical veganism as a protected characteristic under the UK Equality Act 2010 in a landmark Employment Tribunal case. He has worked doing campaigning, lobbying, scientific research, undercover investigations and consultancy. He has authored several books, including “Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World”.

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 is on our Podcast here on Apple and here elsewhere.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome
01:14 Jordi’s Intro

  • Adding new identities: Zoology, ethical vegan, activist, writer.
  • Legal case re: ethical veganism becoming a protected philosophical belief in the UK
  • Writing “The Ethical Vegan”

03:26 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in Catalonia as a Roman Catholic (like 99.9% of people there)
  • Becoming atheist as a child despite “I never met one… I assumed that everybody else believed in the Catholic god”
  • Other cultures seemed to be “pre-Catholic”
  • Living under the oppression of Franco’s fascist dictatorship “Catalan culture survived underground.” “As a child… the message you get is ‘this reality is not the real one'” “I have to maintain a reality against the reality around me” That led to questioning Catholicism
  • Being bullied “The world was a completely hostile place to me… the country… the streets”
  • Discovering the welcome of the animal world & nature “I could see there was something better”
  • Catalan Catholicism was softer. More open to doubt than the fascist-friendly, Spanish version
  • Internal struggle at 12 yrs “What happens if I don’t believe”
  • “Protestants tend to become agnostics. Catholics tend to become atheists.”
  • “I prayed to god to make me an atheist… so I can discover you by myself”
  • Being anti-religious at first, but softening with age
  • Secular Buddhism
  • Formal institutional religions vs. more personal/flexible religions & spirituality
  • “I built my philosophy from instinct”
  • Naturalistic & mystical/spiritual connections with nature
  • “That bark seems more important than what you were just saying” 🙂
  • The same feeling of awe can be interpreted in spiritual or naturalistic ways
  • Jordi’s 13 hour lecture on “From Nothing to Everything – a Natural History of the Universe”
  • “Reality is a subjective thing but also shared”… “Find the points in common”
  • Mythic & fictional “realities”

34:13 What Matters & Who Matters?

  • “What’s right & what should I do?”
  • “I closed the book of religion & I kept the book of nature”
  • Being freed to focus on an instinctive ethics
  • “Learning how to be normal enough so people would give me money” 🙂
  • Cats & dogs as closest family. They taught me “how to behave with humans” & wild animals “taught me how the world works”
  • Going vegan after an experience with a wasp guarding a nest. She had a perspective!
  • “Now is the time I have to start protecting – rather than observing”
  • “I have to go back to the real world [from academia] to change it”
  • The danger of using nature as an ethical guide “those that take the book of nature but only look at the cover… when you open the book you see the individuals.”
  • The perspective of the other, the victim, as central to morality
  • Re-wilding: In nature “there is a lot of suffering, there is a lot of happiness”
  • Moral agents & patients
  • Frans de Waal: “I don’t eat many mammals”
  • “If you think as a vegan you’ve have stopped… sentience is it… you’re deluding yourself… There are plenty of reasons to go beyond sentience”
  • “Constantly expanding the circle of compassion… doing the minimal harm possible”
  • An accident, a dream, isolation, writing a novel on a remote Scottish island, returning as a vegan
  • “It was a knock on the head that made me vegan”
  • Anthro/bio/ecocentrism? “Everything matters”
  • “The universe doesn’t work like that – it’s not hierarchical”
  • “Sentience is that concept that makes sense across cultures”
  • Suffering is worse than just being damaged
  • “I want to build a world where there is no destruction”
  • Gaia/human landscape: “That’s not proper environmentalism”
  • Compassionate conservation
  • “The minimum we should do: Don’t hurt sentient beings… then build your morals as far as you can go”

01:12:06 How Can We Make a Better World?

  • Jordi’s “What if we all went vegan overnight” article & “Ethical Vegan” book
  • “I have no idea – the future is unknown”
  • Thinking about the future isn’t about prophecy… it’s about deciding what to do now
  • “Veganism is the current, modern, secular manifestation of ahimsa… doing no harm”
  • “Doing no harm is better than doing harm – in general” & biologically
  • “Ahimsa is gaining terrain… there will be more ahimsa in the future”
  • “The vegan world is inevitable… either we manage to get ahimsa or we go extinct”
  • Intersectional veganism & diversity of thought
  • Ahimsa as a driving force, then a pluralism of ideas & approaches
  • Can we achieve “Ahimsa politics”?
  • Institutions, law & politics
  • “It’s all about individuals in nature & it’s all about individuals in politics”
  • The role of the arts & narrative… “We need storytellers”
  • Changing mainstream narrative/language might be more impactful than specific targeted campaigns
  • Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens”
  • Jordan Peterson / Scott Adams’s perversion of epistemology “Whatever works for you is ‘real'”
  • Fictions, fabrications, abstract (e.g. money) & physical realities
  • JW: “Patterns that are good at replicating and persisting will tend to win out”… hoping that “reality based & compassion based memes will win out over time”… will prove to be adaptive
  • “Simplify your life… listen to your instincts… & to nature”
  • In the end “we will be gone… but between now and then… how can we help?”

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

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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