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Sentience Politics is an anti-speciesist political think tank with the goal of reducing the suffering of all sentient beings. Founded in 2013, their activities include political campaigns—such as ongoing ballot initiatives for sustainable food and fundamental rights for primates—and research on how to most effectively reduce the suffering of human and non-human sentient beings.
Sentience Politics is now an independent Swiss association.
As an effectiveness-focused anti-speciesist think tank, Sentience Politics attempts to identify and implement the most effective methods of helping both human and non-human sentient beings. Approaches which they identify as being promising for significantly reducing suffering include political action and social change, technological solutions (especially cellular agriculture and plant-based animal product alternatives as a potential solution to the suffering caused by factory farming and commercial fishing), building the capacity and improving the effectiveness of altruistic efforts, spreading ideas like earning to give, and conducting research on how to improve effectiveness.
Sentience Politics endorses cause neutrality, the principle that the only relevant factor in deciding among causes (e.g. working on farmed animal advocacy vs. wild animal suffering) should be their relative effectiveness.
One of Sentience Politics’ activities is doing research on questions related to reducing suffering for all sentient beings. Their existing research includes policy papers on invertebrate suffering, fundamental rights for primates, cultured meat, and sustainable food.
As of November 2016, Sentience Politics' research agenda includes questions related to the following topics:
- Factory farming and commercial fishing, such as the amount of suffering these activities cause and how they are likely to develop
- Wild animal suffering, including the numbers of wild animals, the extent to which various animals are capable of suffering, and how wild animal suffering might be reduced
- Digital sentience, including whether and to what extent various digital entities could be sentient, the future of digital sentience, and its ethical implications
- Political and social change, including the psychology of speciesism, suffering-focused law, the sociology of attitudinal change, and the efficacy of different approaches to large-scale social change
- Foundational questions, including questions in suffering-focused ethics, the nature of suffering, and altruistic decision-making
Fundamental rights for primates
In June 2016, Sentience Politics began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative on fundamental rights for primates in Basel, Switzerland. The proposed reforms would revise the cantonal constitution to include "right to life and respect for the physical and mental integrity" for non-human primates. According to Sentience Politics, Basel's existing animal welfare regulations are not sufficient to protect primates from death and suffering, for example in pharmaceutical experiments and in confinement at the Basel Zoo. If adopted, the reform would allow observational studies on primates but very few medical experiments, and would require the Basel Zoo to make significant changes in its primate breeding and enclosures. The campaign is supported by several Green Party members.
According to project manager Meret Schneider, the campaign is a first step in extending rights to non-human animals.
On October 10, 2016, Sentience Politics, along with animal advocacy organizations Vebu and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation for Our Contemporaries began collecting signatures for a citizen’s initiative in Berlin Kreuzberg that would require all schools and the town hall to offer a vegan option every day. This is the first vegan citizen’s initiative in Germany. They need to collect signatures from 3% of the electorate (about 6,000) by April 2017. There are about 95,000 vegans in Berlin, and the city is considered the vegan capitol of Europe with more than 50 vegan restaurants.
Sentience Politics explained to House of Democracy and Human Rights that the vegan options will help mitigate climate change. The initiative will also help reduce the suffering of farmed animals. There has been resistance from cafeteria directors, who fear that the vegan options would cost more. The District Office estimates that a vegan meal would cost 1.25 Euro more than a conventional meal.
In May 2016, Sentience Politics hosted the first annual Sentience Conference in Berlin. The conference brought together researchers and advocates working to identify and implement the most effective ways of helping non-human animals. Speakers included Lewis Bollard of the Open Philanthropy Project, Nick Cooney of Mercy for Animals, psychologist Melanie Joy, and philosopher David Pearce.
- Animal consciousness
- Effective altruism
- Nonhuman Rights Project
- Timeline of animal welfare and rights
- Sentience Politics. "About Us". Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- "Bürgerbegehren für vegane Gerichte in Kreuzberger Kantinen". October 11, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- "Volksinitiativen für vegane Menus an Schulen und Heimen". March 23, 2014. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
- Lisa Bartsch (October 6, 2016). "Lucerne mag es vegan". Retrieved January 1, 2017.
- "Kommt jetzt der Vegan-Zwang in Zürich?". March 7, 2015. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
- Camille Krafft (July 10, 2016). "L'idée de donner des droits aux primates fait son chemin à Bâle". Retrieved November 15, 2016.
- Sentience Politics. "Research Agenda". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- Effective Altruism Foundation. "Projects". Retrieved January 8, 2017.
- "Sentience Politics wird ein unabhängiger Verein!". Retrieved January 30, 2018.
- Sentience Politics. "Effective Strategies". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- Sentience Politics. "The Benefits of Cause-Neutrality". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- Simon Knutsson (May 2016). "Invertebrate Suffering". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- R. Fasel; C. Blattner; A. Mannino; T. Baumann (May 2016). "Fundamental Rights for Primates" (PDF). Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- A. Rorheim; A. Mannino; T. Baumann; L. Caviola (June 2016). "Cultured Meat: An Ethical Alternative To Industrial Animal Farming" (PDF). Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- Sentience Politics. "Sustainable Food 2020" (PDF). Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- "Une initiative veut limiter les souffrances des primates". June 23, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
- "Schluss mit Affen-Versuchen: Basler Tierschützer fordern Gleichstellung von Mensch und Affe". June 24, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- Thomas Frey (October 13, 2016). "Veganes Bürgerbegehren". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Milena Zwerenz. "In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg soll es bald auch veganes Kantinenessen geben". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Robert D. Meyer (October 11, 2016). "Vegan auch in der Bezirkskantine". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Aleksandar Zivanovic (October 10, 2016). "Bürgerbegehren fordert veganes Essen in Kantinen". Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- "Berlin Kreuzberg: Bürgerbegehren für veganes Essen in Schulen und Kantinen". October 28, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
- Sentience Politics. "Our Campaigns". Retrieved January 8, 2017.
- Jacy Reese (May 24, 2016). "Animal Protection Groups Discuss Effective Strategies at "Sentience Conference"". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
- "Sentience Conference". Retrieved November 16, 2016.