“You can definitely be a victim & a perpetrator” – Farm investigator Erin Wing – Sentientism Episode 118

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Erin is the Deputy Director of Investigations at Animal Outlook, a national animal-advocacy nonprofit organisation. Erin was an undercover investigator for two years. She left the field after her last investigation at the Dick Van Dam Dairy in California, where she saw cruelty, abuse & suffering every day. Through her new position with Animal Outlook, Erin works closely with investigators, providing support & resources.

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.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome

01:38 Erin’s Intro

  • Undercover farm & fishery investigations & Animal Outlook

02:46 What’s Real?

  • Growing up very religious…
  • Church every Sunday, Biblical moral standards
  • The Golden Rule “Do unto others…”
  • “There was a point in my life where I started to question… there always seemed to be some exclusions… some conditions”
  • “‘Others’ encompassed everyone… human, animals, children, everyone regardless of sexuality, background, identification…”
  • No longer Christian, now non-religious… “someone who just wants to make the world a better place for everyone in it”
  • “As I got older I started questioning things more”
  • Very religious mother “faith based” who still encouraged questions
  • Religious belief: “That’s great for them… as long as no one is being hurt”
  • Questioning both the facts & ethics of Christianity
  • “It really came to a head for me… [I] managed to fall into almost every marginalised community” LGBTQ+, race…
  • “I fell into so many of those categories that potentially might be excluded from salvation”
  • The supernatural, luck, agnosticism?
  • “I never rule anything out” humility

18:25 What Matters?

  • [Golden Rule] “the way I would like the world to function”
  • “…my own trauma & hardship & suffering”
  • Compassion for it’s own sake or because god commands?

23:30 Who Matters?

  • “I’ve always had this connection with animals”
  • As a child “I did not see a lot of kindness”, often conditional compassion
  • With non-human animals: “There are no conditions to receive affection from them”… “Those were the purest connections I could make”
  • Making friends with a scary-sounding neighbourhood dog “I just felt a wet nose & breathing”
  • Saving a stray dog & drowning kittens
  • Watching an animal farming documentary at ~13-14 yrs old “I immediately felt horrified”
  • “I could feel that contradiction… why am I eating this?”
  • The normalisation of animal products
  • The industry & consumers both want the truth hidden
  • A vegan friend “you have all these views… but you’re not vegan”
  • Vegetarianism “I didn’t really know what to eat… I’m no cook”
  • Cost / low income challenges re: vegan branded products
  • “The day I became an undercover investigator… that was the day I became a vegan”
  • An easy vegan transition because “I was undercover… no one was going to criticise”
  • Biocentrism/ecocentrism
  • “I love nature… I’m a tree hugger”
  • Living, survival, nature, sentience
  • Industry commodificiation of sentient beings “That’s not people… that’s food”
  • …telling yourself this being is not capable of feeling pain while they’re screaming in pain”
  • Mark Solms, author of “Hidden Spring” on Sentientist Conversations

42:42 A Better Future?

  • Failures of compassion & belief
  • Understanding other people’s journeys… to separating themselves from the propoganda (religions, animal industries)
  • “It can be really hard for people to break out”
  • Understand, but “don’t compromise… stay strong in your stance.” That’s what non-human animals are relying on
  • “I would not be able to endure what they endure”… “They are waiting for us”
  • “Deprogramming a lot of the population”
  • Helping people change: Animal Outlook’s Farm Transition Programme
  • The role of investigations. Horror & guilt vs. denial, obfuscation & “bad apples”
  • “Every farm is exploiting an animal”, whether organic, free-range or not
  • “Holding the industry accountable”
  • “Investigations footage completely flips it [Happy animal propaganda]”
  • “Every single time they have the same excuse”
  • “You can definitely be a victim & a perpetrator”
  • “Standard practices” of mutilation & killing
  • If the standard practice is cruel why shouldn’t I be cruel?
  • “This individual is a living being & they’re screaming… but I just have to keep going”
  • “The workers aren’t cultivating this type of environment so who is?”
  • The overriding imperative of profit, production, consumer demand
  • Transitions for farms & fishing
  • Some farmers are “in indentured servitude”, locked into debt & contracts & terrible conditions
  • Keeping animals “surviving long enough to be slaughtered”
  • “A very toxic way of making a living”
  • “Cows have these amazing, beautiful personalities”… farmers can feel remorse & connection
  • A fish farm manager says: “It used to bum me out the way we killed them… but over the years you kind of get desensitised”
  • Alternatives “can be wonderful for a lot of these individuals”… “they actually have a way out”
  • RAP, Miyoko’s Creamery, Stock Free Farming, Animal Outlook, Mercy for Animals’ Transfarmation
  • Exploited workers are so often from minority groups
  • “We want a better future for all – and we include animals in that”
  • The intersections between animal rights, veganism and intra-human ethics
  • “The most effective way to pursue that better world is through animal rights work”
  • “It is an everything issue… animal rights, human rights, environmental, human health… that is a fact… it encompasses so much”
  • “I experienced a lot of suffering in my life… I want to create a world where other individuals don’t have to go through that, whether they be human animals or non-human animals”

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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