Marc Bekoff

“Every individual matters” – Marc Bekoff – New Conversation on Sentientism YouTube and Podcast

Marc is professor emeritus of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published 31 books, won many awards for his research on animal behavior, animal emotions, compassionate conservation, & animal protection, has worked closely with Jane Goodall, & is a former Guggenheim Fellow. Marc’s latest books are “Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do” & “Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible” (with Jessica Pierce) & he also publishes regularly for Psychology Today. Marc & Jessica have recently written “A Dog’s World” about what the world will be like for dogs as & when humans disappear (Princeton University Press, 2021). In 1986 Marc won the Master’s age-graded Tour de France. His homepage is

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 is also on our Podcast – subscribe here on Apple: ​ (& here for all the other platforms).

We discuss:

  • Growing up in Brooklyn & not being a strong student in high-school
  • Talking to a companion goldfish & the neighbourhood animals
  • Imagining perpectives of non-human animals: “Minding animals”
  • Seeming bizarre to question the sentience of non-human animals
  • Selling records, undergrad degree, then a career using play behaviour as a window into the animal perspective
  • Michael Fox’s work with canids & becoming his grad student
  • Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?”
  • Donald Griffin’s “The question of animal awareness” & “Animal Minds”
  • Animal protection as a lifelong focus
  • Getting academics out of the clouds and into helping
  • Growing up in a culturally Jewish home with Russian Jewish immigrant grandparents, but being an atheist from day one
  • My parents never called me “nuts” when I said good morning to the goldfish every day
  • “People ask which school of philosophy I follow – I have no idea”
  • An identification with other sentient beings
  • “I just never made that divide between human & non-human”
  • Refusing to dissect or experiment on animals in school, as an undergrad & at med school
  • Going “cold tofu” & cutting out animal products. Vegetarian then vegan
  • The moral value of sentient beings & non-sentient living things
  • “I don’t think plants can feel pain in an aversive way”
  • “If we find out carrots feel pain, I won’t eat carrots”
  • “We know certain things about sentience in non-human animals & that is enough for people to change their meal plans”
  • “I never doubted that non-human animals had feelings” (Luna barks in agreement)
  • Anthropocentric environmentalism that ignores farmed & most wild animals
  • New Zealand’s “War on Wildlife” re: “non-native” species
  • Granting rights to rivers & rocks
  • Instrumental importance can still be very important
  • Compassionate Conservationism: “every individual matters” so work out solutions for all sentient stakeholders
  • So much welfare legislation excludes most suffering animals
  • Standard conservation: “We don’t need you because there are plenty of others of your species”!
  • Taking the perspective of the oppressed individual
  • Being indoctrinated away from naturalism & compassion for sentients
  • How even otherwise careful thinkers remain trapped by harmful social norms
  • “Friends think I’m crazy but I am optimistic”
  • The OneHealth movement – it’s a win win for human and non-human animals together
  • Better ethics re: non-humans will improve our ethics re: other humans
  • From “I know they suffer but I love my burger” to “It’s who you eat, not what you eat”
  • Sentientist language, moving from object to subject language re: non-humans (Microsoft grammar checking)
  • Food as a particularly emotive topic. People want to retain choice + control
  • Even human supremacists should go vegan
  • Ethical arguments don’t drive enough change, but other pressures are building too (climate, zoonosis, anti-microbial resistance, human health)
  • “What we do to help non-humans helps humans”
  • Setting an example: Biking 400km on a vegan meal plan
  • Sentientism means having compassion even for people we disagree with
  • “I feel for human suffering too”
  • “There will be a sea change… we’re on a trajectory towards our moral compass being inclusive of non-humans and humans.. it’s a win win for all”
  • We’ve made progress in the last 50y
  • “We’re alive right now so just go do it”.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at​. Join our “wall”
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Thanks to Graham for his post-prod work. Follow him: @cgbessellieu​.

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