“Veterinarians are merchants of doubt for the animal agriculture industry” – Dr. Crystal Heath of Our Honor – Sentientism Episode 142

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast

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?”

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

  • “I’d love for these sorts of conversations to be had in #veterinary schools”
  • “Should all vets maybe adopt a #Sentientism philosophy?”

03:21 Crystal’s Intro

  • “A veterinarian who kind of recently joined the animal rights movement”
  • “This movement has kind of taken over my whole life”
  • Full-time veterinary practice & founding Our Honor
  • Empowering vets to “speak their conscience & confront systems of violence”
  • Countering bullying & retaliation
  • Compassionate Bay working on Californian legislation
  • The California fur ban & global impact
  • “It’s quite astonishing – the resistance in the veterinary community to animal rights”
  • The founding of veterinary practice in animal exploitation
  • “They actively keep out anybody with an animal rights agenda from entering the profession”

06:36 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in an agnostic family on a farm
  • Celebrating Christmas
  • “What are you, Christian or Jewish?… like those were the only two options”
  • Asking what happens when chicks die… “their soul goes to heaven”
  • Young people’s encounters with death “shocking & terrifying” “but I don’t have that same sense of trauma from it… they’re being released from this faulty body”
  • “I have a very scientific mindset”
  • Reading the Bible… being fascinated
  • Arguing about organ donation
  • Weddings: “the wife had to obey & submit… that didn’t seem like something I could jump on board with”
  • @ellendegeneres #ellendegeneres coming out & being attacked by religious homophobes
  • Religion: maintaining hierarchy & power structures vs. people treating each other better
  • “What if agnostics & atheists organised themselves – would they end up trying to oppress others?”
  • “There are some big unanswered questions… why am I here… where does consciousness come from? Once you die, lights out… really?”
  • “…consciousness is a supernatural thing? I don’t know”
  • Ontological & methodological / epistemological #naturalism
  • “All models are wrong but some are useful”
  • Sentience vs. consciousness
  • #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?

  • #Anthropocentrism
  • 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”
  • #Colonialism
  • “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”
  • Avian flu
  • “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.

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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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