BBC Radio 4 program Futureproofing has tackled the issue of animals – how we don’t understand them, and how the way we treat them may change in the future.
The show, which is presented by Timandra Harkness and Leo Johnson, visit a number of experts including Josh Tetrick, Founder of food tech company JUST and Jacy Reese – the Co-Founder and Research Director of the Sentience Institute. He is also an international speaker and author of upcoming book The End of Animal Farming.
Treating them badly
At the outset of the program, Harkness says: “We’ve always treated animals as necessities for what we want: to eat them, wear them – but people are starting to question ‘should we treat them this badly?’”
Johnson adds: “We’ve treated them as means, not ends. We’ve treated them as objects, not subjects. It’s us, the human beings who have said ‘we’re the rational ones, we’re the moral ones’.
“But is that about to change?
Reese, who gave a recent TEDx talk about why the end of animal farming is coming, spoke to the Harkness about ‘the big changes happening for farmed animals’. He spoke about the sentience animals feel, discussing some of the cruelties that happen on animal farms.
Harkness asks him about what would happen to farmed animal species if we stopped eating them.
He answers that he believes there is no inherent value in keeping domesticated species – that have been born to suffer – alive for the sake of it.
Jacy Reese talks about the end of animal farming
What about jobs?
On the topic of what would happen to people who work on farms, he says: “With any technological transition there is a temporary employment cost. You’ve seen this with typewriters turning into computers, you’ve seen it with horse and buggies turning into cars, and ultimately it seems worth it for society.
“I do think it’s going to be a cost and they will need to transition, fortunately with the efficiency gains, and the job opportunities within in animal-free food, there’s lots of room for change.”
He backs up this point by talking about a dairy in New York which transitioned from making cow’s milk to nut milk – and is still a valuable employer.
Speaking to Plant Based News about the program, Reese said: “In the past few years, we’ve seen rapidly growing interest in animal issues. Especially in 2018 with so much discussion of new technologies like clean meat.
“It’s interesting that animal rights draw in not only people interested in ethics and health, but also people who are just intellectually fascinated by the topic.
“Many people grew up with animals, grew up eating animals, and are intrigued that our relationships with them seem to be so drastically changing in the 21st century.”
Days are numbered
He added: “One of the big arguments for an animal-free food system is the sheer inefficiency of using animals.
“This is very convincing since it doesn’t rely on the better angels of human nature. It just relies on undeniable biological facts.
“The BBC team was eager to take a broad, open-minded look at this topic. I think big media outlets like them see the writing on the wall, that the days of animal exploitation are numbered, and they’re eager to document the transition as it happens.”