On this week’s podcast, we are joined by Jeff Sebo, who is the director of New York University’s Animal Studies M.A. Program, to discuss his brand new book, Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves: Why Animals Matter for Pandemics, Climate Change, and Other Catastrophes. Jeff apparently can see into the future, since he began writing this incredibly prescient book in 2017—three years before the world plunged into COVID-19. We discuss why pandemic and climate change preparedness has been so inadequate and why governments even now are slashing pandemic preparedness budgets, despite what we have been through the past two years and the likelihood that things could get even worse in the future. Jeff’s forthcoming book doesn’t just outline why societies need to end factory farming to save ourselves, it’s intensely about the animals themselves. He points out that taking responsibility for this ever increasing amount of non-human suffering is both necessary and possible and ponders what we need to do for animals to be taken seriously.
Jeff also tells us about an important new report from New York University’s Guarini Center that he co-authored entitled Towards Plant-Forward Diets: A Toolkit for Local Policy Makers. This important guide is custom made for activists working with local governments to move laws and policy in a vegan direction.
Jeff is a Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Philosophy, and Director of the Animal Studies M.A. Program at New York University. His current research focuses on bioethics, animal ethics, and environmental ethics, with a particular focus on animals, pandemics, and climate change; the moral, legal, and political status of animals; and the ethics of activism, advocacy, and philanthropy. His book Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves: Why Animals Matter for Pandemics, Climate Change, and Other Catastrophes will be published soon, and he has co-authored the books Chimpanzee Rights and Food, Animals, and the Environment. Jeff also works with animal protection and animal studies organizations. He is a board member at Minding Animals International, a mentor at Sentient Media, and a senior research affiliate at the Legal Priorities Project.
“Our treatment of animals is absolutely relevant to these global threats. The way we treat animals in factory farming, deforestation, the wildlife trade, and other industries are significant drivers of pandemics, climate change, and other threats.”
– Jeff Sebo
Highlights for Episode 629:
- Whether Jeff feels there has been a turning point in public consciousness during the pandemic about what we’re doing to the world
- Jeff points out how we can only evaluate the worth of individual animal lives from a human vantage point and how we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good
- How we have to take into account all of the limitations on our knowledge, power, and political will if we want to help animals responsibly
- Why Jeff thinks we should prioritize fighting factory farming
- Jeff’s opinions on whether there’s a fundamental flaw in human nature that explains how otherwise good people treat animals
- Why mink farms have turned out to be a microcosm during this pandemic and what he believes it means about our relationship to animals, and how it will affect our ability to manage the future
- How the Towards Plant-Forward Diets: A Toolkit for Local Policymakers report produced by the Guarini Center at NYU focuses on reducing the consumption of meat and how it could help to improve public health and reduce harm to animals and the environment
- Why the report is an excellent place to start for policymakers at a local level and some of the steps that cities have taken that Jeff considers positive
- Innovative policies that might prove to be a good way forward
- Article: An animal rights activist was in court on criminal charges. Why was the case suddenly dismissed?
- Unchained TV
- Our Hen House on Unchained TV
- NY Times Article: Vegan Travel: It’s Not Fringe Anymore
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The Our Hen House theme song is written and performed by Michael Harren.
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 awfw.org.