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Episode 581: Sentientism ft. Jamie Woodhouse

By Jasmin and Mariann — February 27, 2021

Jamie Woodhouse joins us this week for an intriguing, dare-we-say captivating, conversation about “sentientism,” a philosophical worldview that encompasses vegan values. First developed and named in the 1970s, sentientism, quite simply, grants moral consideration to all sentient beings. Jamie tells us what he believes are the two central pillars of sentientism and what sentientists think about compassion, consciousness and morality. He also dissects the common issues that arise within sentientism, such as the burden of proof (who should we consider to be sentient and why?), the connection between levels of sentience and moral action (how should we behave towards beings with differing levels of sentience?), and questioning the sentience of plants. Jamie also shares how and he is working to bring sentientism into the mainstream, connect with others, and further build the movement around this worldview.

Jamie is a sentientist, humanist, and vegan who believes in compassion for all sentient beings. He left a 23-year career as a management consultant in 2017 to concentrate on working to refine sentientism as a potentially unifying, baseline ethical philosophy, and is currently focusing his efforts on building a fully fledged movement. Jamie’s papers and seminar materials on sentientism are available to read on, ResearchGate, and PhilPeople, and he hosts the Sentientism podcast.

Use evidence and reason and have compassion for all sentient being. Even a minimally sentient being still warrants meaningful moral consideration.”
– Jamie Woodhouse

This Week in Our Hen House:

  • How to define morality from from a sentientist point of view
  • Where to place the burden of proof and how to weigh the evidence in deciding who is sentient
  • Whether levels of sentience matter in determining what is a moral action, e.g., should behave differently toward a shrimp than we should to a pig or a dog
  • Could plants be meaningfully sentient and what would that mean for vegans?
  • How and why sentientism can make sense to both people of faith and to atheists
  • Anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism from a sentientist perspective
  • How the human ability to project our own experience on to others adds or subtracts from our knowledge of other sentient creatures
  • Jamie’s personal perspective on sentience and how he became interested in the idea

Connect with Jamie Woodhouse:

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This episode is brought to you in part through the generosity of A Well-Fed World. A Well-Fed World provides the means for change by empowering individuals, social justice organizations, and political decision makers to embrace the benefits of plant-based foods and farming. Learn more at


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Don’t forget to tune into Our Hen House’s other two podcasts: The Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan Podcast, and The Animal Law Podcast.

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