How can we use our limited resources in order to help as many sentient beings as possible? The Sentience Conference systematically addresses this important issue. It will bring together scientists, activists, and politicians in order to discuss relevant topics such as effective altruism, new strategies, and innovative forms of activism. Participants will be united by the common goal of effectively alleviating the suffering of as many sentient beings as possible.


Overcoming Ourselves and Winning Change For Animals

Speaker: Nick Cooney, Director of Education Mercy for Animals
Time: Saturday, 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM
Room: H3010

Those of us who want to create a better world for animals face enormous obstacles. The forces of habit, culture, religion, politics, and evolution work more against us than for us, not to mention the trillion dollar industries which stand in our way. Despite that, some advocates and advocacy organizations are succeeding at sparing the lives or reducing the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals per year—and their momentum is increasing. This talk will look at why and how that is happening, and discuss how one of the biggest hurdles to achieving such success is overcoming ourselves.


The Psychology of Speciesism

Speaker: Lucius Caviola, Executive Director Effective Altruism Foundation
Time: Saturday, 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Room: H1058

Surprisingly, the concept of speciesism has been neglected in psychology so far. In this talk, Lucius will present a number of recently conducted psychological studies investigating the psychological construct of speciesism. The studies suggest that speciesism is an accurately measurable, relatively stable psychological attitude with high interpersonal differences, and that it goes along with a cluster of other moral attitudes.

tobias l

Making Compassion Easier: a Strategy for Vegan Critical Mass

Speaker: Tobias Leenaert
Time: Saturday, 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Room: H1012

The empathy and compassion that many people feel for animals, is hard to put into practise as long as they are all “steakholders”. Individuals as well as society as a whole are heavily invested in and dependent on the use of animals for food. In this talk, Tobias talks about something that does not get enough focus in the vegan movement: the fact that attitude change can follow behaviour change. If we can make people behave differently by making animal friendly alternatives still better and more easily available, we can make it easier for them to feel compassionate and to change their views about animals.


No Protection without Democratic Representation

Speaker: Dan Lyons, Chief Executive Officer Centre for Animals and Social Justice
Time: Saturday, 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Room: H3010

Although Britain has a reputation for being a nation of animal lovers, this is not reflected in the country’s actual welfare standards. This is because animal welfare and related public opinion lack any institutionalised representation within government. In these circumstances, the sacrifice of animal welfare and related public concern for narrow commercial interests becomes almost inevitable. The British animal protection movement’s lack of impact is partly due to a failure to address these structural obstacles and a flawed focus on human behaviour and other micro-level analysis. Structural changes – such as embedding animal protection as an institutionalised goal of the British state and democratising animal protection public policy to overcome the current domination of commercial interests – are essential if animal welfare standards are to be raised significantly. While this analysis is focussed on the British case, the concepts are transferable to other countries and international institutions.


Academic Activism: Sensitizing to Sentience and Suffering

Speaker: Stevan Harnad, Professor of Psychology University of Québec in Montréal
Time: Saturday, 12:00 PM – 01:00 PM
Room: H3010

Most people would agree that it is wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on a sentient being. There is no suffering that human beings inflict on nonhuman animals — enslavement, torture, rape, genocide — that they do not also inflict on human beings. But the difference is that it is illegal to do so to human beings, most people are aware of it, and most people are opposed to it and would never collaborate in it. Not so with with the suffering we inflict on animals, although its scale is incomparably greater. Most people are not aware of it, nor of the fact that most of it is not necessary either for our survival or for our health, and most people collaborate in it. It is academics’ duty to sensitize peers, students and society to this, humanity’s greatest iniquity, and to how we can put an end to it. Stevan will suggest some strategies.


The Moral Significance of Future Technologies

Speaker: Tobias Baumann, Director of Strategy Sentience Politics
Time: Saturday, 02:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Room: H1012

This presentation outlines why individuals who will be born in the future have equal moral significance, and then explores the ethical implications of this viewpoint. If history is an example, it is plausible that new technologies will affect the future to a large extent. Animal activists should be particularly concerned about the risk that future technologies could cause unprecedented amounts of suffering. The presentation finishes by outlining potential ways to positively influence the future.

jon bockman

Evaluating Advocacy: Strategies and Lessons Learned

Speaker: Jon Bockman, Executive Director Animal Charity Evaluators
Time: 02:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Room: H3010

Given the high level of uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of tactics used to help animals, it can be difficult to maximize the impact of your advocacy. What are some advantages of focusing on different cause areas, and what strategies can you take to increase your odds of success? In this talk, Jon will discuss lessons he has learned while running Animal Charity Evaluators.


Sentience and Metta Training in Buddhist Ethics

Speaker: Beril İdemen Sözmen, Research Associate Technical University Istanbul
Time: Saturday, 02:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Room: H1058

Sentience as a concept is central to Buddhist moral philosophy as the condition for being a moral patient. The fact that sentient beings can and do suffer is the crux of the problem that Buddhist ethics sets itself. The solution it suggests is two-fold; one concerning a fundamental change in attitude to suffering by the moral agent and the other concerning giving priority to sentience in how others ought to be treated. What Buddhist schools have to offer beyond this sentience-based moral theory is a long tradition of practical exercises intended to develop the skills required for recognizing and respecting sentience in others.


Sentience as a Political Argument

Speaker: Bernd Ladwig, Professor for Political Theory and Philosophy Free University of Berlin
Time: Saturday, 04:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Room: H1058

Interest-based approaches related to sentience are particularly useful when representing the issues of animal rights and animal welfare in the public sphere. For pragmatic reasons, the “reasonable grounds” designation of animal protection laws should be interpreted in a radically restricted fashion: only morally significant interests of humans can potentially be used to justify harming an animal. Vanity interests, such as meat consumption, sport, and entertainment are not reason enough to justify the harm of an animal. This interpretation sets a minimum level of acceptable consideration, but does not preclude a broader understanding of animal rights.


The Open Philanthropy Project and Farm Animal Welfare

Speaker: Lewis Bollard, Program Officer (Farm Animal Welfare) Open Philanthropy Project
Time: Saturday, 04:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Room: H1012

The Open Philanthropy Project recently launched a farm animal welfare program. Lewis will explain how Open Philanthropy chose to focus on farm animal welfare, and talk about its first grants: in accelerating corporate cage-free reforms. He’ll also discuss strategy in the farm animal space broadly.


Wild Animal Suffering and Intervention in Nature

Speaker: Oscar Horta, Co-Founder Animal Ethics
Time: Saturday, 04:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Room: H3010

To date animal advocacy has paid little attention to the problem of wild animal suffering. Yet given the number of wild animals and the severity of the harms they suffer, few other issues can be considered more morally important. Oscar will present data that suggests that most wild animals have lives of net suffering and defend the view that animal advocates should be concerned about preventing or mitigating it.


Sentience Politics: Our Strategic Approach

Speaker: Adriano Mannino, President Sentience Politics
Time: Saturday, 05:30 PM – 06:30 PM
Room: H3010

Sentience Politics is an antispeciesist political think-and-do tank. Our current strategic approach can be summarised as follows: Appeal to reason and empirical facts instead of to emotion and biases like the “single victim effect”; target young people that are likely to be future societal influencers and leaders; put a political spin on things and conduct pioneering legislative and judicial campaigns; be more “meta” than is common, e.g. by creating effective activists and professional donors rather than veg adopters, and by investing significant resources into strategic research; be as “cause-neutral” as possible and connect the animal cause to (far) future frontiers such as reducing wild animal suffering and protecting digital sentience. The talk will explain the reasons behind this approach, describe our policy papers and campaigns so far, and outline our future plans.


How Meta-strategies Can Multiply our Impact

Speaker: Ruairí Donnelly, Executive Director Raising for Effective Giving
Time: Sunday, 09:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Room: H3010

Meta-strategies operate “one level up” — they improve our capacity to help, instead of helping directly themselves. By using meta-strategies, we can use leverage to multiply our impact. This presentation outlines and analyzes some meta-strategies that appear to be promising, and could be pivotal to the success of the animal advocacy movement. In particular, this presentation addresses one significant obstacle to the movement: the chronic lack of funding. This limitation significantly hinders the animal advocacy movement. Finding ways to systematically raise more funds is crucial, and encouraging a donation norm alongside a vegan diet norm is critical to the success of animal advocacy efforts.


Animal Protection Law in the UK: Redefining “Unnecessary Suffering”

Speaker: Natalie Cargill, Project Manager: United Kingom Sentience Politics
Time: Sunday, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Room: H1012

The UK often boasts of some of the best animals protection laws in the world. And indeed, the law provides that no animal shall be subject to “unnecessary suffering”. But what does this mean for the 100 million chickens, 15 million sheep, and 10 million pigs raised and killed in the UK each year for food? And how can the law condone the intense suffering inherent in factory farming? Evidently, animal protection law has failed to protect animals in the UK. Natalie will be discussing how, why, and what to do next.


Cellular Agriculture: a Practical Solution to Factory Farming

Speaker: Gilonne d’Origny, Lead Development Officer New Harvest
Time: Sunday, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Room: H3010

Factory farming is a silent time bomb responsible for some of the greatest global problems of our time (environmental, health, food security), threatening our very survival. Many efforts are made to end factory farming by changing consumer behavior (e.g., reductarian or vegan diets) and treatment of animals (e.g., antibiotics-free or cage-free) with limited success, particularly in light of our growing global population increasingly hungry for animal products. Another option is to change the way animal products are made by applying advances made in medicine to making food, a system known as cellular agriculture. This means meat, milk, eggs, leather harvested from cell cultures rather than from animals – a process that is considerably more sustainable, efficient, safe, and humane than factory farming. At New Harvest, we are catalyzing research to build the foundational tools and train the engineers to make these products and eliminate the need for factory farming.


Strategies to Reduce Suffering of Farm Animals (incl. fish)

Speaker: Mahi Klosterhalfen, Executive Director Albert Schweitzer Foundation
Time: Sunday, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Room: H1058

Founded in 2000, the Albert Schweitzer Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering of animals and eliminating human usage of animals. To this aim, the Foundation has developed and is continuously reviewing strategies to achieve its goals. As director of the Foundation, Mahi presents new strategies and learning processes and invites the audience to discuss his approach.

melanie joy

Understanding Carnism for Effective Vegan Advocacy

Speaker: Melanie Joy, President and Founder Beyond Carnism
Time: Sunday, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Room: H3010

In this presentation, social psychologist Melanie Joy explains how carnism (the invisible belief system conditions people to eat animals) shapes the mentality of meat eaters. Melanie then explains how vegans can apply their understanding of carnism to communicate more effectively with non-vegans, advocate more strategically, feel more grounded in and better able to articulate their own choices, and feel more empowered living in a dominant carnistic culture.


Animal Rights: Looking beyond one’s Plate

Speaker: Krishna Singh, Legal Counsel PETA Germany
Time: Sunday, 01:30 PM – 02:00 PM
Room: H1058

For the Animal Rights Movement it is essential to look beyond its plate, which means to realize that it is not just about „calculating“ animal suffering by numbers, which leads to blind out that animals are individuals with their own story, their individual life and their own rights. The movement needs to keep looking at the big picture, it shall not reduce itself fighting only factory farming and the production of meat as some groups demand. It is about the rights and respect for all animals, a goal to fight for and – once reached – makes everything else fall into place.


How Many Non-human Animals Should there Be?

Speaker: Simon Knutsson, Researcher Foundational Research Institute
Time: Sunday, 01:30 PM – 02:00 PM
Room: H3010

What is a desirable non-human animal population size? When we affect animals, both in the animal industry or in the wild so that there are fewer or more of them, does that result in a better or worse outcome? Insofar as the answer depends on whether their lives are worth living, how does one determine whether a life is worth living or if it would have been better if the individual had never existed? Relatedly, how can one quantify amounts and balances of happiness versus suffering in a life and in a population? In addition, since populations contain at least some individuals whose lives are clearly miserable, there is also a question of whether the existence of other individuals with better lives can counterbalance that misery and make the state of the population good on the whole.


Upgrade your Activism – New Ways to Be More Effective for Animals

Speaker: Ria Rehberg, Co-Executive Director Animal Equality Germany
Time: Sunday, 01:30 PM – 02:00 PM
Room: H1012

What are the benefits of using new technologies in our activism? Which techniques are more effective than others in advocating animal rights? Which tools can make my campaigns more effective and impactful for the animals?

The presentation aims to answer those and similar questions, and to provide insights into the methodology of the work behind the organization Animal Equality. Useful advice and food for thought for anyone interested in achieving better results and having a greater impact for animals.


Building a Movement of Nonviolent Action: Why and How

Speaker: Zach Groff, International Press Coordinator Direct Action Everywhere
Time: Sunday, 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Room: H1012

Dramatic nonviolent confrontation transformed the twentieth century, but the animal rights movement has largely avoided such tactics. In this talk, Zach will explain why the animal rights movement needs to build a grassroots movement steeped in history and social science. Zach will address effective activism for those focused on movement growth and social norms. Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is attempting to build such a movement through open rescue, community building, mobilization and, as Zach will discuss, a new turn toward local change.


Welfare, Agriculture, and Probability

Speaker: Simon Jenkins, Teaching Fellow University of Birmingham
Time: Sunday, 04:00 PM – 04:30 PM
Room: H1058

This talk will consider some issues of the demarcation between sentience and non-sentience. It will consider some of the problems facing a probabilistic heuristic for making decisions about how to treat potentially sentient beings. As an example, agriculture will be considered as an avenue for reducing suffering in invertebrates.


Towards a Happy Biosphere

Speaker: David Pearce, Philosopher
Time: Sunday, 04:00 PM – 04:30 PM
Room: H3010

Natural selection didn’t design living organisms to be happy. A predisposition to suffer in countless ways is genetically adaptive. Any attempt to create a happy biosphere that relies on environmental solutions alone is doomed to fail. This talk explores how the CRISPR revolution in biotech can be used to create a biology of invincible well-being for human and nonhuman animals alike.

The conference is organized by the antispeciesist political think tank Sentience Politics, and will take place on May 21st and 22nd, 2016, at the Technical University of Berlin.

Register now!