“Vet training reduces empathy for animals” – Vet Kevin Saldanha – New Sentientist Conversation

Kevin is a community vet, based in Ontario, Canada. He grew up in East Africa & Goa, India & then moved to Canada. He has held leadership roles, originally in Catholic community organisations &, more recently, Humanist community organisations.

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 audio will also be on our Podcast – subscribe on Apple here ​​​& on most other platforms.

We discuss:

  • Growing up in a Roman Catholic Christian, meat-eating family in Goa, India and in East Africa
  • The centrality of Catholicism to the community
  • Praying for exam success
  • Moving to Canada and becoming deeply embedded in the local religious community (inc. The Knights of Columbus)
  • Discussing animal ethics with a priest “do they have souls and an afterlife?”
  • Rejecting the homophobia of the Knights of Columbus & Catholicism
  • Considering the impossibility of “souls”
  • 9/11 as a trigger for re-considering Kevin’s religion, morality and purpose
  • Telling Kevin’s story in the book “Faith beyond belief” ​
  • Studying science and evolution as a vet, but keeping it separate from faith
  • The social challenges of leaving religion (leadership roles, social circles)
  • Most friends are still friends. They pray for Kevin’s soul and his return to Catholicism 🙂
  • Rejecting not just religious, but all supernatural beliefs
  • Lacking atheist role models IRL, getting past the militant atheist groups, but finding connections re: Humanism online & then in person
  • Leading a Humanist group for over a decade
  • People returning to religion because of a wish for simple ethical standards and a comforting community and roadmap of rituals for their family
  • Vet school is oriented towards non-human animal agriculture where harming & killing animals is normalised
  • Vet training reduces empathy for non-human animals!
  • Realising what a Rumenotomy involves after having seen it as “normal” through vet school
  • How humans categorise non-humans for our own ends (farmed, wild, companion, vermin…)
  • The average human wants charismatic wild and companion animals to live but farmed animals to die. It’s all about human interests
  • Going vegetarian / vegan, initially because of health, then because of ethics
  • Starting with one day without animal products…
  • Luna the puppy contributes to the discussion
  • Taking the perspective of the “other”, regardless of species
  • Atheists are more often vegan than average. Vegans are more often atheist than average. Sentientism brings naturalism & sentiocentric ethics together
  • Some atheists/humanists are militantly “carnist”, despite supposedly being committed to evidence, reason and compassion. Blind to another form of dogma and indoctrination
  • Religion and non-human animal ethics as “kryptonite” for otherwise careful thinkers
  • Humanist organisations are starting to mention non-humans
  • The inertia of social norms
  • Climate & health as additional factors that might help us help non-human animals
  • Breaking the dangerous causal link between economic development & animal consumption (vs. Veganuary in the UK/US), using the deep cultural histories of plant-based living as well as advanced tech options
  • Adopting a vegan diet might change your whole philosophical worldview!

You can find Kevin at @vegvet or on Facebook here. Kevin’s veterinary practice is at​.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at​​​​ Why not help Kevin to normalise rationality and compassion by joining him on our “wall” ​using this simple form.​

Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our groups. Our main one is here on FaceBook.​

Thanks to Graham for his post-prod work. Follow him: @cgbessellieu

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