“All suffering matters morally” – Eva Hamer from Pax Fauna – Sentientism Episode 141

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

Eva is the operations lead for the non-profit Pax Fauna. Pax Fauna exists to design a more effective social movement for animal freedom in the U.S., using original research as well as careful study of social movement literature and the recent history of the animal movement in order to reverse the cultural norm of eating animals. Eva has been organizing in the animal freedom movement since 2015 when she started working with DxE in Chicago, where she focused on building community, writing protest music, and compiling the movements’ songs into an online songbook used by advocates around the world. She started working full time as DxE’s legal coordinator in 2018, managing the organization’s many legal cases, organizing trainings, and orchestrating large artistic demonstrations. Eva has a deep curiosity about culture in all its forms, and how social movements engage with culture both internally and externally. Through songwriting, she has explored how music and art can shape the messaging and attitudes of the animal movement. Building on a background in Kingian nonviolence, she is a dedicated student of Nonviolent Communication, and she is committed to bringing NVC’s repertoire of creative problem-solving tools to the work of building a better culture in the animal movement. Working for years as a music therapist in hospice taught Eva how to apply metrics to aspects of life that are difficult to measure- and how to judge when metrics aren’t working to tell the whole story.

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 on all the other platforms.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome
01:39 Eva’s Intro

02:48 What’s Real?

  • “Growing up I definitely loved the supernatural… ghosts… god… mystical things”
  • Raised #episcopalian, baptised, church “I remember really enjoying that”
  • Considering confirmation but “starting to feel a little bit sceptical”
  • 5th grade: Debating people online about religion
  • “A sudden realisation… I don’t actually believe all of this”
  • Looking for purpose
  • Identifying as an #atheist & focusing on the harms of religion (unaccepting, destructive, family rejections)
  • “I still don’t believe in anything that can’t be falsified”
  • “I’m really connected to the needs that can be met by religion…” working in an end of life hospice
  • “My own spirituality… characterised by #nonviolence” a Kingian perspective, nonviolent communication
  • Meeting the needs (community, morality)… without the supernatural
  • Valuing acceptance & care for others led to hostility vs. some religious ethics
  • #yoga & #meditation then finding “a more secular form of meditation”
  • Using supernaturalism as a metaphor
  • Naturalistic “spirituality”… “a felt sense of purpose”

13:20 What Matters?

  • Non-violence: Getting away from black & white “right and wrong” thinking to “thinking about needs”
  • Finding creative alternatives to meeting needs without violence
  • Needs & strategies to meet them
  • More fundamental needs: safety, sustenance, freedom from suffering
  • #maslow ‘s hierarchy, Scott Barry Kaufman’s sailboat @ThePsychologyPodcast
  • Protective use of force. Justifiable force. “Nonviolence is definitely not #pacifism “
  • Mourning unmet needs
  • #retribution #restoration #deterrence & #justice & #punishment
  • Feeling compassion even for perpetrators?
  • “I don’t believe that separating ourselves is going to help”
  • JW “The only thing retribution does is cause more harm”

30:33 Who Matters?

  • #vegetarian older sister
  • Not thinking fishes could suffer
  • #vegan at 13 “as an experiment… a discipline…”
  • “First day of 8th grade… kids at school asked why… I really had no answer”
  • Doing research “I felt a lot of horror at what I was reading”
  • Pax Fauna study of meat eaters “it makes me feel bad & I try not to think about it”
  • “I felt the same… but the way to not think about it was to keep eating vegan”
  • Companion rats as a kid. Mum paying for their surgery “they were going to get the care that they needed”
  • “She [mum] was annoyed [at Eva going vegan]” but adapted
  • Taking the #LiberationPledge (not eating where others are consuming animal products). Family accommodate that “a sign of care”
  • #biocentrism #ecocentrism #sentiocentrism “I think it’s sentience – who can suffer”
  • Uncertainty & prudence about sentience
  • Plant, machine, insect sentience?
  • Wild animal suffering “it matters, whether or not the problems are solvable”
  • #Personhood for rivers etc. “a useful legal concept… morally it doesn’t make sense to me”
  • Denying sentience, denying harms (e.g. of farming/fishing), overriding interests
  • Destroying the definition of “welfare” & “humane” & “compassion” & “care”
  • #motivatedreasoning

50:25 How Can We Make a Better Future?

  • Telling a story about “the world is moving away from these practices… we’re moving”
  • “I don’t need to do these mental gymnastics”
  • Sentience Institute surveys re: bans on slaughterhouses
  • People holding two inconsistent beliefs at the same time (personal consumption choice & banning slaughterhouses)
  • “It’s not about me going vegan… instead it’s about us as a society… a shift we want to do”
  • Systemic, institutional, personal change
  • Opportunities to get involved in the system change… “Then you don’t want to be a hypocrite”
  • “For me veganism is a practice of personal integrity”
  • “Experiences in activism are transformational… when I first got arrested… it allowed me to change my self-conception”
  • “Bypass that whole futility question… just do work”
  • Being prosecuted for rescuing three beagles
  • “Open rescue is really important”
  • Going inside farms breaks the distance
  • Animal Save witnessing “it’s not abstract… making eye contact”
  • Alternative proteins “I’m glad people are doing that work… it’s not me”
  • Grass roots movements “really well positioned… to do cultural change work”
  • Ballot initiatives “a really cool way to side-step the whole mess of the way the political system is right now”. A policy act and “a signal to the world”
  • Oregon’s YesONIP13 initiative (David Michelson interview)
  • Parallels of risks between animal activist & religious communities?: Deeply important overarching cause; ends justifying means; high control / high demand group & leadership dynamics; behavioural issues
  • “Culture has to be a really huge part of the work… it’s primary”
  • Intentional cultural interventions, training, managing conflict
  • “How much we could achieve if we could really work together”
  • “We attract people who’ve had some pretty intense alienation in the world”
  • “Having any group that isolates people from their communities is really destructive… counterproductive”
  • The difficulties of living amongst carnism & the risks of alienation and isolation
  • “Chosen suffering for the sake of the cause is an important way to make change happen”
  • “Metabolise suffering into meaning”
  • “It’s hard to be optimistic… but grassroots movements have a lot of potential… we can make change happen… it feels worth putting a lifetime into”
  • Pax Fauna are recruiting & have volunteer opportunities.

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

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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Tarabella and Denise for helping to fund this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

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