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The Sentience Institute Podcast

Interviews with activists, social scientists, entrepreneurs and change-makers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity’s moral circle, with an emphasis on expanding the circle to farmed animals. Host Jamie Harris, a researcher at moral expansion think tank Sentience Institute, takes a deep dive with guests into advocacy strategies from political initiatives to corporate campaigns to technological innovation to consumer interventions, and discusses advocacy lessons from history, sociology, and psychology.

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Kevin Schneider of the Nonhuman Rights Project on using litigation to expand the moral circle

I think within five years, we will absolutely see… the first nonhuman animals recognized as holders of rights in the US; ‘persons’... [I don’t think] the gates [would be] flung open if we start to see one or two species recognized as having rights… I don’t see this at all as a linear path. We file the cases that we do and the work that we do and hope to achieve discrete outcomes, but we’re also very mindful of the fact that other judges [cite] us in cases that we don’t file… We’ve seen more and more judges citing our cases approvingly to say, ‘look, the relationship between humans and animals is changing; we need to take their interests more seriously’- Kevin SchneiderThe Nonhuman Rights Project has litigated in US courts for four chimpanzees and four elephants. But can litigation for a small number of animals drive a wider expansion of the moral circle? What are the risks of this approach? How can animal advocates maximize the chances of positive impact for animals while pursuing this strategy?Since 2015, Kevin Schneider has been the executive director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, previously having worked in private legal practice.Topics discussed in the episode:The NhRP’s plans for legislative campaigns (5:05)Whether litigation should focus on farmed animals or chimpanzees and elephants (13:28)How legal change interacts with public opinion and wider social change (29:00)The insights from forthcoming public polling supported by the NhRP on rights for particular species, and the implications of this (37:28)The decisions made by the NhRP in selecting particular states and legal strategies to focus on (46:49)How litigating for legal personhood for animals compares to enforcing and expanding the scope of existing legal protections for animals (1:00:30)What the NhRP has learned from its study of historical social movements and the risks of using this sort of evidence (1:08:03)The NhRP’s priorities for media coverage (1:13:08)How the NhRP interacts with advocates in other countries (1:32:08)Why the NhRP is not greatly constrained by either funding or by a lack of talented applicants to their job roles (1:42:33)How current legal professionals might (or might not) be able to help the NhRP (1:47:04)Why Kevin doesn’t believe that there is much scope for new organizations to do similar work to the NhRP elsewhere in the US (1:51:00)How someone could best prepare to be an excellent candidate for a role at the NhRP and how Kevin’s own career experiences have affected his work (1:59:12)Which professional legal experience might be most useful for animal advocates (2:04:40)Resources discussed in the episode:Resources by or about the NhRP:The NhRP’s article in the Syracuse Law Review on home ruleSteven Wise of the NhRP’s book, Rattling the CageThe litigation cases of the NhRPAnimal Charity Evaluators’ review of the NhRPSteven Wise of the NhRP’s book, Steven Wise, Though the Heavens May Fall, on the 1772 Somerset v. Stewart caseThe documentary on the NhRP’s work, Unlocking the CageSupport the show (https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/donate)

2hr 12mins

3 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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Christie Lagally of Rebellyous Foods on scaling up high-quality plant-based foods

Since about 75% or so (and that’s just a rough estimate)... of plant-based products on the market today are actually made on off-the-shelf meat processing equipment, we’re looking to actually change that part of the industry by actually designing new production equipment that is appropriate for the production of plant-based meat… By creating new production methods and new equipment at Rebellyous, we can bring down the cost of plant-based meat, increase the quality, and increase the volume of our products to well beyond what it is currently, [just] 0.2% of the meat industry.- Christie LagallyMany advocates hope that conventional animal products will eventually be entirely replaced by animal-free foods. But what are the challenges in the way of achieving this goal? What role can entrepreneurs play in encouraging change?Christie Lagally is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Rebellyous Foods, a company that is working to produce high-quality plant-based chicken nuggets in large quantities. She previously worked for 15 years in mechanical engineering and has also worked with the Good Food Institute and volunteered for the Humane Society of the United States.Topics discussed in the episode:Why and how Rebellyous Foods focuses on developing better tools for scaling the production of plant-based products (2:02) The specific equipment types and processes that the plant-based food industry currently relies on that need to be replaced (7:34)The uses and limitations of extruders (16:45)Who designs, produces, and sells the equipment that is used in plant-based products (19:02)The technical difficulties in producing plant-based chicken products compared to plant-based burgers (24:52)Developing plant-based fish products (33:14)Business to business vs. business to consumer strategies (36:43)The importance of branding in marketing animal-free food tech products (41:00)The use of engineering experience in developing plant-based foods (43:07)The importance of mission alignment in working in animal-free food technology startups (50:23)The transferability of experience in nonprofits to work in animal-free food technology companies (52:28)Christie’s experience with political actions for animals and views on the interaction between animal advocacy nonprofits and the animal-free food technology movement (56:45)The investment and support that Rebellyous Foods has received and the role of impact investment (1:04:48)Resources discussed in the episode are available at https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/podcastSupport the show (https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/donate)

1hr 8mins

7 Feb 2020

Rank #2

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Lisa Feria of Stray Dog Capital on impact investing and animal-free food tech entrepreneurship

I think we forget sometimes because we look at Impossible, we look at Beyond, that they’re the tip of the spear, but there’s so much work and so much opportunity out there… We need to get to all the categories… Seafood in general is very, very underserved. And so getting access to amazing talented entrepreneurs who are going to focus on seafood… there’s a huge opportunity there, because that is such a level of high need. And there’s other categories like that, but I think… cheap, plant-based replacements specifically is an area of opportunity, and seafood is as well. There’s focus on burgers and hot dogs and products like that, especially in beef, and not enough focus yet on many of the other species that we need to get to.- Lisa FeriaInvesting in animal-free food technology startups offers opportunities to disrupt animal agriculture while making a profit. But is high counterfactual impact not irreconcilable with good returns on investment? And what kinds of entrepreneurs and companies seem most promising?Lisa Feria is the CEO of Stray Dog Capital, a group that invests in high-tech plant-based food and cellular agriculture startups. She also helped to found GlassWall Syndicate, a group of investors who collaborate to support animal-free food technology startups.Topics discussed in the episode:How Stray Dog Capital evaluates which companies are likely to deliver good returns on investment and the skills that entrepreneurs need to succeed (2:25)How companies can make high-quality projections and estimates about their chances of success and expected market share (19:45)How Stray Dog Capital evaluates the impact of companies and how this affects their investments (24:35)Why Beyond Meat was such a success story for its investors and why IPOs (initial public offerings) are the “gold standard” for maximising return on investment (30:55)Why Stray Dog Capital focuses on early stage investments, how crowded the space of impact investing in animal-free food tech is, and the counterfactual impact of investments (33:35)The trade-off between counterfactual impact and return on investment (55:05)Why Lisa is optimistic about continued growth and opportunities for animal-free food technology (1:02:22)How Stray Dog Capital collaborates with other investors through GlassWall Syndicate (1:05:48)The markets and geographies that Stray Dog Capital is most interested in, and the importance of pre-existing demand for animal-free foods (1:07:54)Broad vs. animal focus in terms of the impact and strategy of startups (1:12:10)The expected impact (and challenges) of cellular agriculture / cultured meat companies compared to plant-based companies (1:16:27)Projected timelines for when cellular agriculture products will become cost-competitive with conventional animal products, and how investors deal with this uncertainty (1:24:15)Why more animal-free food tech entrepreneurs should focus on neglected product categories like seafood and chicken replacements (1:28:45)Career preparation for working at impact investment groups and as entrepreneurs at animal-free food tech startups (1:36:58)Resources discussed in the episode are available at https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/podcastSupport the show (https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/donate)

1hr 43mins

9 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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Jayasimha Nuggehalli on capacity building and animal welfare in Asia

“The three things that need to be done for Asia are capacity building, capacity building, and capacity building. There’s this tendency of wanting to do things at a global level, having uniformization across countries. But a lot of these policies that are written at the global level are not worth the paper that they’re printed on if there isn’t enough or more focus on building capacity on the ground. And it requires someone with grit to be there at the local level, speaking the local language, understanding the situation there. And I guess more and more international groups should be looking at building capacity rather than just nationwide or international treaties and legislation.” - Jayasimha NuggehalliAsia contains a large proportion of the world’s total farmed animal population. But what actions can be taken to most effectively reduce animal suffering in that context? And how can we build the capacity of local animal advocacy movements?Jayasimha Nuggehalli is a co-founder and the Chief Operating Officer of Global Food Partners, a new nonprofit helping companies to implement animal welfare commitments in Asia. He was the Country Director of HSI’s work in India and has participated in animal advocacy in India for over 20 years.Topics discussed in the episode:How and why Global Food Partners works with companies using, producing, and selling animal products, and why they do this in Asia (1:40)The objections that companies give to making further welfare commitments (13:24)Why Global Food Partners offers a “book and claim” credit trading platform to companies to support them to switch their “conventional eggs” to cage-free without passing on costs directly to consumers (17:19)Where pledges that affect Asian supply chains originate — Asian commitments compared to Western and international commitments — how this differs by country, and how Global Food Partners prioritize between different countries (21:42)How Global Food Partners secures its meetings and finds clients (32:59)How Global Food Partners’ work affects the profitability of the production and sale of animal products (35:02)How we can encourage better enforcement of existing animal protection laws in India — “capacity building, capacity building, and capacity building” as the key priority (43:39)The association between animal activism and right-wing political views in India (1:01:52)The pros and cons of focusing on companion animals in India (1:08:15)The main changes to the animal advocacy movement in India over the last 20 years (1:17:08)The origin stories of HSI India and PETA India, plus the importance of having local employees in animal advocacy organizations (1:24:21)Jayasimha’s career advice for advocates seeking to make progress for animals in Asia and the skills that are most urgently needed, such as animal welfare science and supply chain management (1:31:22)How transferable management and leadership experience from outside the animal advocacy movement is to the animal advocacy context (1:46:01)Resources discussed in the episode are available at https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/podcastSupport the show (https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/donate)

1hr 53mins

7 Apr 2020

Rank #4

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Kristof Dhont of University of Kent on intergroup contact research and research careers

More positive contact [with an outgroup] reduces prejudice. No matter how you measure it, no matter how you set up your study design, once there’s a positive contact situation, you lower prejudice towards the outgroup... These effects tend to be stronger among those higher on social dominance orientation and those higher on right-wing authoritarianism, which makes intergroup contact quite a good and efficient strategy to reduce prejudice among those who seem to be initially prejudiced towards outgroups.- Kristof DhontRecent psychological research on intergroup contact and human-animal relations has implications for effective animal advocacy strategy. But what are the most action-relevant findings? And how can researchers maximize their positive impact for animals?Kristof is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Kent. He founded and directs a research group focused on the “Study of Human Intergroup and Animal Relations at Kent.” He recently edited the book Why We Love and Exploit Animals and organises the Animal Advocacy Conference: Insights from the Social Sciences.Topics discussed in the episode:Kristof’s most action-relevant work for animal advocates and the audience of his work (1:29)Finding the balance between academic rigor and making work accessible to advocates (6:15)SHARKLab and the academic field of human-animal relations (13:28)Connections between right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and animal exploitation (26:02)“Vegetarianism threat,” its correlates, and its causes (41:12)The pros and cons of advocacy focusing on children (55:38)Research on human intergroup interactions and what this suggests about farmed animal advocacy (58:08)The importance of intergroup contact (including between humans and animals) being experienced as positive, in order to improve attitudes towards outgroups (1:12:32)The “secondary transfer effect” of intergroup contact, where reducing prejudice towards one outgroup also reduces prejudice towards other outgroups (1:14:52)How research careers and training in academia compare to research careers in nonprofits and more independent skills development (1:18:05)Advice on PhD applications and on research careers (1:31:16)The interaction between researchers in the academic sphere and the “effective animal advocacy” sphere (1:47:55)Resources discussed in the episode are available at https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/podcastSupport the showSupport the show (https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/donate)

1hr 54mins

7 Jan 2020

Rank #5