Jenny (@jennysplitter and jennysplitter.com) is an award-winning journalist & science writer covering food, agriculture, climate change, biodiversity, health & technology. Her work has been published across a wide range of media outlets including Vox, Forbes, Observer, The Washington Post, Popular Mechanics and New York Magazine. Jenny is a co-founder & contributing editor to the science communication project SciMoms. She is also a podcast host on the Animal Studies channel of the New Books Network & her newsletter, FutureFeed, chronicles change in the food system.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
1:05 Jenny’s Intro – journalism and SciMoms
2:09 What’s Real?
- Growing up in California as reform Jewish
- Reform Judaism: “It’s definitely not heavy handed with the God stuff”
- Most of the parents were atheist and agnostic. It’s mostly about the ritual and the tradition and the history
- Jewish philosophy re: responsibility, community obligations & making the world better
- It’s less about the rules than the discussion
- Moving from a naive view of a caring god to “at some point I just didn’t really worry about it any more”
7:58 What Matters Morally?
- Complexity in reform Judaism moral discussions at Hebrew school
- “Closer vs. further away from God”
- “Of course I’m angry – I’ve just been told by my friend I’m going to hell”
- SkepChick & other atheist communities
- “Do no harm”, community, avoiding bad people, getting into the complex stuff
- COVID & re-thinking communities
- The evolution of morality, good & bad
- Moral scope & consideration
- Writing about the climate impacts of meat & going reducetarian, then just stopping eating meat
- Enjoying substituting out animal products in cooking
- Not wanting to do the big philosophical debate but changing behaviour anyway
- Morality then behaviour or behaviour then morality?
- Philosophical arguments vs. “real people” conversations
- Emotion, stories & logic
- Mollusc/invertebrate sentience?
- Assessing the suffering of farmed animals & fish
- Garrett Broad @ Fordham & why we care about some animals & not others
- “My cat is a vicious murderer”
- We don’t have to understand non-human animal sentience perfectly to be confident they can suffer
- Bio/ecocentrism, conservation and environmentalism. “We have to be thinking about ecosystems”
- Ecosystem services
- Indigenous practices re: non-human animals & environment
- “Perilous bounty” by Tom Philpott
- #JustTransition for industrialised & indigenous cultures
33:52 The Future
- An end to animal farming, fishing & exploitation?
- Latent popular support for a ban on factory farming?
- Regeneratively grazed animal agriculture isn’t the answer
- Factory farming is more efficient and less climate impactful than free-range!
- A focus on factory farming can be unhelpful
- Parallels re: unfounded resistance to GMOs
- What would a “meat free future” look like?
- Helping animal farmers transition (even escape!) “I don’t have the Tyson foods of hemp or mushrooms to sell to”
- Rancher Advocacy, #Transfarmation, Miyoko’s Creamery
- Switching government subsidies to fund transition
- Can journalism plant seeds in people’s minds?
- We need to get more specific about how to transition
- Motivated reasoning (on both sides). Identity, culture, ethics
- Tobacco, fossil fuels, animal agriculture industry parallels
- Capitalism & marketing
- Journalism & language about non-human animals & ethics. People are Googling “healthiest plant-based burger” not “the inner life of a chicken”
- “Humanity” is too hard to figure out. The conversation “starts with you”
- Arguments & social media zingers vs. active listening & productive conversations. Vaccines, food, ethics…
- Righteousness can start the conversation!
- Universal compassion doesn’t mean weakness
- The role of privilege
- Being cringy on Instagram
- The Boomer mindset.
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. Our biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production!