“We gotta make friends… that’s the path to liberation” – DxE’s Matt Johnson – Sentientism Episode 129

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

Matt is Press Coordinator and an investigator for Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). As part of his activism he has conducted animal farm investigations, been threatened with prison for rescuing farm animals from abuse and pranked NewsMax and FoxNews by posing as the CEO of Smithfield Foods – exposing to millions of viewers the damage their industry does to non-human animals, human animals and to the planet.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the three most important questions: “what’s real?”, “who matters?” and “how can we make a better future?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is also on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:
00:00 Welcome

02:50 Matt’s Intro

  • DxE press & investigations

03:28 Eyes Open to Animals

  • Deer hunting uncles. “Factory farms everywhere” in Iowa
  • 4 yrs old “I don’t want to eat animals”
  • Family push back
  • A religious family “God gave us animals for food”
  • Being “a silent vegetarian” at school… in secret… feeling shame
  • “Good friends of mine… through 13 yrs of grade school… never knew I was vegetarian”
  • An aunt: “you’re going to die if you don’t eat animals”
  • Uncles painting a dead deer’s nose red for Xmas
  • “These people around me are monstrous”
  • The dissonance of “be kind” messages in kindergarten

10:24 What’s Real?

  • “In adulthood I’m not a religious person”
  • New atheists, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
  • As a child: “The ethics smacked me in the face” (Problem of Evil)
  • As an adult “facts & rationality”
  • Jehovah’s Witness dad… “I was hating the prospect of doing the door to door evangelising”
  • Shunning. It’s worse where the JW community has more power
  • “#Freewill is an illusion” so “I don’t… have any anger towards anybody”
  • JW “We have will, we make choices, but they’re not ‘free'”. Removing #retribution from the justice system? #MoralLuck
  • An investigation “As cruel a practice as you can imagine” #VentilationShutDown… “The COO shows up … I was straining my free will determinism in that moment”
  • “Guilt & shame can be useful”

25:11 What & Who Matters?

  • #Utilitarianism ?
  • “High-minded philosophical ideals… often used to launder right-wing ideas”
  • “Sorry humans… but I have to put my energy towards the 99.99%”
  • #Offsetting & totalising utilitarianism
  • Animal agri as a core case most ethical systems should reject
  • Boundaries & degress of sentience: Oysters, worms, insects?
  • Not letting edge cases distract from the most urgent core cases
  • “99% of animal rights focuses on less than 1% of the good it ultimately can do”… “Stopping harm vs. proactively helping”
  • Wild animal suffering. Genetic modification & bioengineering for less suffering & more flourishing?.. “an inspiring message”
  • Is a #vegan focus on human-caused harms #anthropocentric ?
  • LiveKindly: “Nature… is arguably flawless”!!! MJ: “something seems less than flawless.”
  • #Biocentrism / #Ecocentrism / #environmentalist “Non-sentient stuff matters to the extent it impacts sentient beings”
  • “I gave up plastic straws to save the fish!”
  • AOC & Sunrise movement joking about eating dairy
  • JW: “We want farmed animals dead so we can eat them & wild animals alive because they look pretty”
  • Common concern for local wild animals by people who still consume sentient… “There is a strain… that gives me some hope”

45:04 A Better Future?

  • Are most people theoretical Sentientists already? 🙂
  • DxE Direct action: investigations, animal rescue, non-violent civil disobedience
  • Pretending to be animal ag CEOs on @Fox News & @Newsmax TV
  • Whistleblowers. Tapping into latent compassion… “You can help overturn this system… you’re not a bad person… you were born into it”
  • Instead of blame, giving permission to change
  • @Harper’s Magazine :
  • Press/law/politics/indiv change levers
  • DxE approach: systemic… “staying away from the ‘v’ word”
  • #veganism ‘s normative power
  • DxE criticisms
  • JW: “If you were rescuing pets people would say DxE isn’t doing enough!”
  • “We tried the established channels.”
  • JW “Violence can be effective in social change… when it’s used against you”
  • The threat of being sent to prison for saving animals
  • Human & non-human oppressions
  • Asking Gavin Newsom about CAFOs “OK but we first need to worry about climate change, pollution, working conditions” !!
  • “A thoughtful lefty person is gonna cut you off faster”
  • Left (care / rights / justice) / right (purity / environment / freedom) perspectives on speciesism
  • An “X” case for animals (libertarian, religious, progressive…)
  • Narratives & messaging
  • “We gotta make friends… that’s the path to liberation”

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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