“When We Talk About Animals,” a new Yale podcast, is exploring questions about the impact of animals on humans and society.
Viveca Morris SOM ’19 and Lindsay Stern GRD ’23, host the podcast, which is produced by the Yale Broadcast Studio and supported by the Yale Human Nature Lab. In each episode, Morris and Stern moderate discussions about human understanding of how animals think and feel and the impact of these societal beliefs and assumptions on animals and the environment. Each podcast features a guest expert who engages with animals in some capacity. Experts thus far include biologists, legal scholars, philosophers, journalists and sociologists.
“Animals have a uniquely powerful way of moving people’s hearts and minds. The big questions that our ways of seeing and treating them raise — in industry, in law, in daily life, in literature — get at the very root of what it means to be a human and what it means to be a good human,” Morris explained.
Morris and Stern met in a Yale Law School class taught by Doug Kysar, deputy dean of the law school, called “Animal Law” in the fall of 2017. The two formed a friendship over a mutual interest in topics related to animals, morality and consciousness, and discussed how they could turn their discussions of books and ideas into an inclusive conversation.
Morris and Stern then took “Biosocial Science” in spring of 2018 with Sterling professor of social and natural science Nicholas Christakis, and raised the idea of creating a podcast with him. As the director of the Human Nature Lab, Christakis was able to provide support to Morris and Stern and enabled them to make use of the Yale Broadcast Studio, where they now record and edit their podcasts.
“Both of them are incredibly intellectually engaged,” Kysar said of Morris and Stern. “They are looking to create something and share it with the world that crosses disciplines and raises some of the deepest questions facing us all.”
According to Stern, the podcast aims to interview individuals who focus on animals but whose questions challenge assumptions we have about ourselves and about our lives. She added that, for most podcasts, the team reaches out to individuals who are engaged in or produce fascinating work.
Many of the individuals interviewed are from places outside of Yale, including researcher Gale Ridge. Ridge, who was featured in the sixth episode of the podcast, studies bed bugs and oversees the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s insect collection.
Stern explained that one of the most challenging aspects of starting a podcast is developing trust in the natural flow of conversations.
“At the beginning, we were totally green,” Stern said. “There was a joy in learning to relax our impulses to sculpt the conversation. Allowing conversation to flow naturally creates a stage for the mind to show itself.”
According to Morris, the podcast is edited minimally to provide listeners with the experience of what it is like to be with and speak with the guest. Stern added that many of the most interesting moments in interviews take place when the guest hesitates and thinks out loud. Ryan McEvoy at the Yale Broadcast Studio does all of the podcast’s editing, according to Morris and Stern.
The podcast is slated to release episodes featuring New York Times Magazine reporter Charles Siebert, author Charles Foster, chief counsel of The Humane Society of the United States Jon Lovvorn, philosopher Dale Jamieson and dolphin expert Diana Reiss, as well as Kysar and Christakis. Morris explained that the team is currently focused on producing the highest quality episodes possible.
“Animals raise profound questions about humanity,” Morris said. “Ultimately, we hope the show will lead people, including us, to think more deeply about the types of creatures we are and to do more to be better ones.”
“When We Talk About Animals” is available through Yale on iTunes, Soundcloud and several other podcast platforms.
Madison Mahoney | firstname.lastname@example.org