Crystal is a veterinary practitioner, a journalist and an activist. She is the co-founder of Our Honor, a charity aiming to create an organized network of veterinary professionals who are able to challenge unethical institutionalised systems and amplify the voices of those who have been marginalised.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
#panpsychism "maybe… even an electron has a vanishingly simple #microconsciousness "… "we're all made up of sub-units of consciousness & within ourselves we have multiple consciousnesses" @EmersonGreen & Luke Roelofs episodes
"I think masses of humans have a consciousness"
The #combinationproblem in panpsychism
Eric Schwitzgebel's "If Materialism is True, the USA is Probably Conscious"
Quantum physics & consciousness?
35:46 What Matters?
"Whatever it is, wherever it is, sentience matters"
"For the best interests of all species"
"I am kind of like one of those people who thinks plants matter… the best thing is not to feed them to billions of animals who are suffering"
Our Matt Johnson @DirectActionEverywhere episode https://youtu.be/niiBZVatbcY
"How do I not harm others?"
Egoism, relativism, nihilism "forms of ethics that have abandoned morality"
Happiness vs. interests? "I felt like interests was the better thing to go for"
Do thermostats have interests? "I'm drawing a line at the thermostat… but plants have an interest"
47:07 Who Matters?
The USA #4H animal farming programme "They make kids raise animals for slaughter… millions & millions of kids are involved" & #FutureFarmersOfAmerica
Raising #dairy goats "I learned… if my goat had a baby & that baby was a boy then I had to send them to slaughter"… "I said no - my goats were pets after that"
Riding horses #dressage. Being told by an instructor "There's the noble class & the food producing class. Man's job is to subdue nature & turn it into something beautiful" "The horse elevates the human from a nasty, disgusting, 11 year old creep into a gorgeous ruler sitting on a throne"
"We [humans] can recognise the suffering of others… we can heal the suffering of others"
Intra-species animal compassion…
In this pursuit of lack of suffering… we have caused great harm in #animalexperimentation"
“Can we flip that script… nature is suffering… work for the best interests of all species”
PETA materials “I guess some people don’t eat animals”
Parental push-back re: health
Leaving home then only eating plants
Developing habits to exclude animal products
Moving to Berkeley and meeting animal activists “we can actually change the world for animals in a relatively short period of time if we join together and organise”
Civil, gay, women’s rights “we can create a vastly better world for all of us”
Human worker exploitation in animal agriculture
58:26 How Can We Make a Better World?
Flipping humanity’s role re: sentientity
Animal advocacy as a social justice cause
Human medicine’s purpose vs. veterinary medicine
The AVMA oath “relieve animal suffering” but also “protecting animal resources” and feeding the public & providing medicines through animal agriculture
“I was very naïve going in”… Talking about the human harms of animal testing & agriculture
“This backlash & this pile on happens… huge resistance to this”
Vegans / animal rights involved people being challenged when applying to vet schools
Animal agriculture industry and animal researcher reps are on nearly every vet school admission board
Denials of the land-use impact of animal agriculture & the reality of feed conversion ratios
“Do they actually believe this?”
“They do not want a discussion… it can’t be talked about”
“I post things in veterinary FaceBook groups and I get blocked & removed”
AVMA not responding to questions or journalists “They want to shut down the conversation”
“Cherry-picking data, ignoring science to fit their agenda”
“We are on the fringes… working towards the centre”
Vets speaking out often need anonymity because of threats and bullying
Terminal surgeries where students are forced to kill completely healthy patients “don’t need to happen”
“This mindset that you have to be tough” as a counter to young student imposter syndrome
Sexism and the “caring is a sign of weakness” mindset
Hearing: “The only reason a woman enters vet school is because she’s looking for a rich husband”
“There are more women but that culture is still sort of there”
~121,000 vets in the USA. ~57k are dog & cat vets. ~3800 are food animal practice. ~2600 are mixed practice. ~5900 academia. ~3200 in industry
The Veterinarians against Ventilation Shutdown campaign: 1500 vets signed on “I think we have the numbers needed to make real change”
“Radical shifts in the veterinary profession” e.g. low cost access to care re: spay & neuter
Good science. Messaging. Education. “Empowering other veterinarians to speak out… students too”
“You will be viewed by the future & by your colleagues as innovators… do not let what anybody says right now to you dissuade you because you are on the right side of history”
Are veterinary institutions now lagging behind public opinion when they could be leading?
“Veterinary profession is very much siloed… we are living in our bubble”
The California vet profession was against the declaw ban. “The legislators look to them as the experts on animals”
Senator Cory Booker’s “Industrial Animal Agriculture Accountability Act”… “This industrial animal agriculture model gets all of the benefits and none of the blame”
Ventilation shutdown “being cooked to death” by heat stroke “This was a constrained circumstance created by the industry… taxpayers ended up having to pay them for killing their pigs this way”
50 million birds killed using ventilation shutdown in the USA due to avian flu
The AVMA failed to re-classify ventilation shutdown as “not recommended”. Then “shut us down completely” on the second attempt
Working conditions in slaughterhouses & kill line speeds, self-inspections, use of prison laboour
Amending the 1958 “Humane Methods of Slaughter Act” to cover birds, not just mammals
“The animal industry is the most powerful lobbyist in our country”
Public opinion vs. money & lobbying influence
Big tobacco to big oil to big animal agriculture tactics
“Veterinarians are merchants of doubt for the animal ag industry… We have to tell them they can’t use us that way”
“I am optimistic… we have the numbers on our side”
The AVMA… “Can we infiltrate it from the inside… or will we need to start a whole other thing?”
Instead of “it should change but it won’t”… “All that’s lacking is hope!”
If only fewer people were listening to Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and Deepak Chopra and listening to Sentientism instead… 😊
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.
Ashley is Director of Outreach for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). She has led a broad range of PETA’s campaigns and has been interviewed about her work to promote animal rights by the LA Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and in many other publications.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
Qanon, Goop products… everyone selects evidence/sources to suit themselves
Believing unfounded things can be a "rational" response to existential crises / the discomfort of cognitive dissonance
37:45 What Matters?
"There is no grounding (to ethics)"
David Hume's "unbreachable" is-ought chasm
"If you hate Sam (Harris) I think you'll like a lot of what I do there" (the Foundations of Morality episode of The Essential Sam Harris
There is a relationship between is and ought but "It's up to us to define that relationship"
"My bridge": Carl Sagan's "We are a way for the universe to know itself"
"I'm super humanistic… I bristle at the efforts… to downgrade the human as just another animal"
We have the "moral opportunity" to figure things out & decide what we ought to do
"Luckily there's a lot of joy & fun in figuring it out… and some sadness… it's the only game in town… so I'm playing"
"I'm trying to champion the human" & David Deutsch re: creation of explanations/knowledge
"Experience must be the only way to see the bridge across is-ought"
Moral agency & patiency
Compassion as a moral opportunity
Cultivated meat: Is there a risk of easy solutions that don't require humans to be better? Would we be missing a moral opportunity? What future horrors might we create?
A future where everyone is #vegan so "we don't even need the word any more"
The value of sacrifice?
58:50 Who Matters?
“I went vegan finally when I fell in love with someone who was a vegan – and now she’s my wife”
“I know what it feels like to agree with the arguments about animal suffering… I can remember what it feels like… to participate in a system that I now think is incredibly evil and harmful… and it feels like nothing… the banality of evil… but cognitive dissonance sucks.”
The “I’m waiting for clean meat” and “I die if I eat vegan” / “I have no choice” responses (e.g. Sam Harris, Paul Bloom) and “it’s normal”
The hope in realising people still feel cognitive dissonance
Consistency & coherence… eating dogs and babies?
How responding to cognitive dissonance can warp ethics (“they don’t matter”) and epistemology (believing things that are wrong)
“My wife is the person who saw a video and was like ‘I can’t participate any more this is too horrible’ and changed her behaviour”
“Most people are more like me – it’s hard for us – we just don’t face it”
“I was living the [meat] paradox – but I do remember it felt like nothing”
“The arguments themselves don’t carry the day”… humility
Falling in love, going vegan, falling in love with cooking
“My veganism was easier than hers – 15 years earlier”
Moral opportunities… finding “better ways to live”
“[non-human] animals don’t tend to struggle with cognitive dissonance”
The naturalistic fallacy and the “necessary” argument… “A failure to embrace the transcendent nature of human knowledge creation… to question who we are… to engineer ourselves away from, if we want to, evolution.”
Ethical & epistemological journeys developing in parallel
Meeting an activist community
Reading Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save" and #effectivealtruism
Sam Harris' "Waking Up"
Identity & Derek Parfit
Physicist Carlo Rovelli's "The Order of Time" & intepretations of quantum physics
"I have 4 extremely diverse points of view pointing to this very strange thing about notions of identity… the Buddha takes things one step further… this is one of the reasons you're upset"
"Being troubled by open metaphysical questions is not because you don't have an answer… it's because you expect the answer"
A local #yoga group
"I stopped being bothered by these big existential questions"
Exploring from the outside & the inside (e.g. via meditation)
Cravings & suffering
Philosophy of mind: functionalism, materialism, #illusionism , #panpsychism
#dualism & non-dualism
Are fictional characters "real"?
Time as an abstraction of a gradient of #entropy
The movie "Tenet"
Consciousness as a statistical macro-phenomena?
#bayesian epistemology vs. Deutschian / Popper #CriticalRationality: putting reasons & explanation at the foundational level
St. Petersburg Paradox
53:00 Who & What Matters?
Inconsistency arguments re: moral exclusion
"Consistency seems like a good thing to aim for"
"Clearly animals count"
Kinship & transcendence "they are literally related"
"I use sentience… a fuzzy line"
Artificial or alien sentience
Blamelessness if we're making good faith efforts to attribute sentience
Risks of ethical flattening if consciousness is all-pervasive "everything matters so nothing does"
Buddhism's "ultimate reality & relative reality"
Pain vs. suffering & human capacity to mitigate suffering even when experiencing pain
01:03:03 A Better Future?
Criticisms of #effectivealtruism
Welfarism vs. abolitionism… end goals and tactics
#Greenwashing & #Humanewashing
Jeff Sebo and the psychological intuition re: rights
Ex-vegans: “something leads them to eat some animal products and then their moral opinions change… that seems suspicious”
Not just ending animal exploitation but preventing it re-emerging
The wild animal suffering imperative
Welfarism is “unnecessary… and risky”
Logic of the larder, the myth of death without suffering, the intrinsic wrongness of killing?
“I believe in person-affecting views but I don’t believe in persons”
Individuals as “macro-phenomena”
Is existence better than non-existence?
“In the EA animal advocacy community it seems like people have said yes to welfarist approaches and no to abolitionist approaches (as tactics) – my conjecture is that… it should be ‘unknown’ to abolitionist approaches rather than ‘no’”
The limitations of welfarist tactics: high income countries focus (now changing); cultivated-meat optimism (also changing); over-scepticism about individual change advocacy (esp. elimination / veganism)
Reducetarianism: “More people will respond to the ‘reduce’ but they’ll do it by less – whereas fewer people will respond to the ‘eliminate’ but they’ll do it by more”
Outdated unfortunate caricatures of abolitionists
Risk of excuses & dead ends: reduction, “humane” animal farming…
“At some point all the pieces need to come together”
#transfarmation “one of my favourite ideas… often farmers are trapped in this industry” “There’s a win-win situation for everyone involved”
Economically self-sustaining interventions
Institutional land-holdings re: agriculture
Measuring human welfare via QUALYs and DALYs “well-intentioned but empirically and philosophically terrible”
Objective list theory
Biases re: loss and getting used to good or bad changes e.g. returning to hedonic set-points
A better approach: “I could ask you”
Happier Lives Institute “how bad is death and who is it bad for?”
Could helping people cope with suffering be an excuse for not fixing the problems (e.g. poverty, health) causing their suffering?
Trauma, stress and growth
Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics “Economies that are required to grow regardless of whether or not they make people thrive… we should be aiming for economies that make people thrive whether or not they grow”
The risks of environmentalism and degrowth movements “I’m comfortable, now everyone else needs to stop growing and find a different way to be happy”
Working with communities
Low-cost group therapy as an intervention can be highly cost effective “That’s a very surprising result… so illuminating… something that only the Effective Altruism movement could have produced”
The wellbeing and economic arguments for helping people suffering from depression “great if you care about the people but also great if you just care about the money”
Population life satisfaction as an indicator of whether a politician will get re-elected
Psychedelics and meditation “the science really needs to catch up” “clinicians will need to be able to take an ontologically neutral point of view” (re: seeing fairies, for examples)
Emergent Phenomenology Research Consortium
“I had no idea if that was working… but it did make me feel better”
“You need a really finely tuned bullshit detector”