John Oberg

“If you hand most people a knife they won’t stab a cow!” – John Oberg – New Sentientist Conversation

John is a professional animal advocate & public speaker. You can support his work at​ and follow him at​.

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.”

Full show notes and the video of our conversation are here:  The podcast version of our conversation is here.

We discuss:

– John’s career in animal advocacy and vegan advocacy

– “It’s been the best change of my life

– it’s given my live a lot of meaning & I’ve made a big difference for animals.”

– Helping other advocates & organisations to be effective via social media

– Messages being seen by 10’s of millions of human eyes

– Growing up in the mid-West, but in a fairly non-religious context

– We generally assumed God exists, but it was rarely talked about

– Thinking at 14 “This doesn’t make any sense – I’m an atheist!”

– Going through a “militant” atheist phase – then softening to just being open minded… “I don’t rule anything out”

– The challenges of coping with family illness & death. Recognising the pull of the hope of an afterlife

– Given there are so many thousands of religions, amazing how someone can be so sure theirs is the right one. It’s just what they were taught as a child

– How the “golden rule” & broad themes of compassion pre-date, then run through most religions

– How naturalism needs to be humble & open minded (even to crazy ideas)

– Avoiding the arrogance of dogma even within atheist/skeptic/naturalistic worldviews

– Withholding belief until there’s evidence. Being comfortable not knowing until then

– “A Meaningful Life” and “The Animal Activist’s Handbook” by Matt Ball, founder of Vegan Outreach

– The meaning of life is about 2 things: The pursuit of pleasure and joy and the avoidance of pain and suffering (the latter being more important)

– Considering the visceral reality of suffering and the imperative of reducing it

– The mind-blowing scale and severity of farmed animal suffering

– Focusing on helping people align their behaviour (e.g. eating decisions) with the ethics they already have (not wanting to cause suffering)

– Veganism is easier than ever

– The rich range of flourishing and suffering sentient experiences – How supernatural ethics can see needlessly causing suffering/death as morally good!

– The good intentions, but the dangers of relativism

– Isn’t a naturalistic grounding for our ethics (sentience) more solid?

– Companion animal relationships already demonstrate how most people don’t want to cause non-human sentient suffering

– Just apply your companion animal ethics to the animals you’re eating!

– If I wouldn’t cut my dog or cat without anaesthetic, why would I pay someone else to do that to a pig

– “I considered myself an animal lover but I ate them, 3 times a day”

– A friend said: “If you consider yourself an animal lover you should probably stop eating them.”

– I initially thought farmed animals had a pretty good life with one bad day

– Watching “Earthlings”

– Helping non-human animals will be good for humans too (AMR, zoonosis, climate)

– “If a being can’t experience pain, I don’t see why that matters” – Environments are important because of their impact on sentient beings

– Most environmentalism reflects human concerns, so ignores most farmed/wild animals

– “If you hand most people a knife they won’t stab a cow with it”

– “People don’t want to believe that they’re bad people”, so they have to convince themselves the things they’re doing aren’t bad

– “We have to chip away at the walls people have built up – we can’t demolish them overnight”

– Veganism is easier now than it ever has been. Socially and practically

– We need to make it as easy as possible

– Plant-based and clean meats will ultimately do the most for farmed animals

– New tech alternatives often render harms redundant quicker than moral development

– Things could be looking brighter for animals everywhere

– The practicalities of a #JustTransition​ for animal farming

– The answers are obvious, ethically and practically – so we just need to get on with it.

You can find John at​ and You can support him via Patreon at​.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at​​​​​​. Join our “wall”​ using this simple form:

​Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our groups. Our main one is here on FaceBook​.

​Thanks to Graham for his post-prod work. Follow him: @cgbessellieu

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