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Ep. 62 | Maximizing the Good We Can Do: A Conversation with Peter Singer

Business for Good Podcast

Release Date: 03/15/2021

“Meat” the Meat Industry’s Journalist: Lisa Keefe and Meatingplace show art “Meat” the Meat Industry’s Journalist: Lisa Keefe and Meatingplace

Business for Good Podcast

If you follow the meat or the alt-meat industry closely, chances are high that you’ve read Lisa Keefe’s work. As the editor-in-chief of both and now too, Lisa has been both reporting on and editorializing on all things meat for the past 15 years. She’s also the creator of the and is a frequent commentator on everything from trends to controversies and more in the meat space. While she’s not a meat company executive, as a meat media (meat-ia?) executive, Lisa’s spent much of her career watching what’s happening as far as plant-based and cultivated meat goes, as well as animal...

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Business for Good Podcast

Our guest in this episode, , is on a crusade to promote vasectomies, and even gave up his previous medical career to focus on simply being a full-time vasectomist as part of his commitment to making the world a better place. That’s right: his entire business is one thing and one thing only: helping men take greater responsibility in their reproductive lives and averting unwanted pregnancies.

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Business for Good Podcast

Many already believe that fostering an alt-protein industry in the US is important for helping the environment, but is it also going to protect American national security? We’re already importing much of our clean energy tech from Asia, but will we soon be importing our clean protein from other parts of the world, too?  , a Democrat from California representing Silicon Valley, doesn’t want that to happen. He’s not only to invest in alt-protein, he’s recently in Congress calling on the Director of National Intelligence to submit an intelligence report on the effects of increased...

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Business for Good Podcast

While it’s a charity, Family Empowerment Media tries to run like a business in that it relies heavily on measurable, evidence-based strategies that produce a significant return on their investment. Though the return they’re seeking isn’t a financial one, but rather is in the form of the social change they’re working to create, mainly by empowering the use of family planning by families that are seeking to have fewer children in developing African nations.  Started in 2020, the sole mission of the group is to create radio content featuring Nigerian families talking about their...

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Oat-to-Market Strategy: Mike Messersmith and the Oatly Story show art Oat-to-Market Strategy: Mike Messersmith and the Oatly Story

Business for Good Podcast

If you’ve been listening to the show for some time, you know that replacing animals in the food system is a topic very close to my heart. While the meat and egg industries in the grand picture have still been largely unaffected by plant-based competitors, that’s not the case in the milk industry, where the explosion of plant-based milks has very tangibly cut into demand for cow’s milk. Gone are the days when almond milk and soy milk were for vegans—now they’re for everyone.  But just a few years ago, a new entrant into the plant-based milk world emerged. In 2015 oat milk was far...

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Ep. 86 | From Tech to Table: Richard Munson and the Food & Ag Tech Revolution show art Ep. 86 | From Tech to Table: Richard Munson and the Food & Ag Tech Revolution

Business for Good Podcast

I try to read any new book that comes out on the topic, and that includes Richard Munson’s new book . I really enjoyed reading this book by someone who’s far more well-known for his deep-dive biographies of visionaries like Nikola Tesla and Jacque Cousteau, but now has written a new book featuring dozens of entrepreneurs seeking to create a more sustainable food system. And they’re doing this not by returning to 19th century agriculture, but by embracing 21st century food and agriculture technology. In this interview we discuss everything from how new tech can displace old jobs, why some...

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Ep. 85 | A Prime Pivot: Why Kimberlie Le and Prime Roots Are Going All in on Deli Meats show art Ep. 85 | A Prime Pivot: Why Kimberlie Le and Prime Roots Are Going All in on Deli Meats

Business for Good Podcast

For those of you who’ve been enjoying Business for Good for some time, today’s guest may sound familiar. That’s because Kim Le is not only our guest on Episode 85, but she was also our guest on our 49th episode back in 2020. If you’ve not heard it, I do recommend you go back and check it out, which will be helpful in seeing just how much has changed for this young startup which was cofounded by undergrads and has raised $20 million so far.  As you’ll hear in this episode, is undergoing quite a transformation as it settles into its new 20,000 square foot production facility in...

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Ep. 84 | Investing in a Post-Animal Economy: Elysabeth Alfano and VegTech ETF show art Ep. 84 | Investing in a Post-Animal Economy: Elysabeth Alfano and VegTech ETF

Business for Good Podcast

One of the most common questions I get from listeners is: how can I invest in companies you feature on the show? Well, most of them are startups backed by VC dollars, and that means the average retail investor isn’t typically going to be able to invest in these early stage private companies.  But what if there were a way to invest money in an index fund that only included companies actively working to replace the exploitation of animals in our economy? It turns out that there is now such a fund, and it was co-founded by . Perhaps most well-known as the host of , Elysabeth has now...

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Ep. 83 | Will Fungi Free Fish? Anne Palermo is Betting on Fermentation at Aqua Cultured Foods show art Ep. 83 | Will Fungi Free Fish? Anne Palermo is Betting on Fermentation at Aqua Cultured Foods

Business for Good Podcast

Humanity’s relentless demand for seafood is emptying the oceans with little end in sight. Does the path to freeing fish from us run through fungi fermentation? That’s exactly what Anne Palermo is betting.  As you’ll hear in this interview, Anne is a former asset manager at Morgan Stanley who decided mid-career that she wanted to start her own chocolate company. After growing her first startup to millions in revenue, this mom of three got hooked on the need for animal-free protein and pivoted to start a new company focused on saving the oceans. Anne began growing mycelium—the...

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Ep. 82 | Engineering Our Way Out of Single-Use Plastics: Troy Swope and the Footprint Story show art Ep. 82 | Engineering Our Way Out of Single-Use Plastics: Troy Swope and the Footprint Story

Business for Good Podcast

You know when you get a food product like those Beyond Meat sausages and see that instead of plastic, it’s in one of those biodegradable trays or bowls? Have you ever wondered how they do that? I mean, that bowl needs to repel oil and water from its surface without getting soggy, but still be actually biodegradable. Seems impossible. Well, it turns out that this feat isn’t only a great technological innovation that helps replace plastics; it’s also a great business, as Troy Swope has proven.  Founded in 2014, Troy's company Footprint grew from humble roots to now having 4,000...

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More Episodes

Typically on this podcast, we showcase entrepreneurs and business titans alike who are using the power of commerce to try to solve serious social problems. Occasionally we’ve had on nonprofit leaders, and in this episode, we’ve again got a very special guest who also is not a grinding entrepreneur. But this guest is someone who’s inspired many mission-oriented entrepreneurs, myself included, along with millions of others trying to do good in the world.

In fact, it’s hard to think of many people on the planet who’ve led a more impactful life than this episode’s guest. 

Peter Singer is an author and ethicist, and has been routinely called the most influential philosopher alive. He’s widely credited with kickstarting the modern animal protection movement with his 1975 mega-bestseller Animal Liberation, and with popularizing what’s now called the effective altruism movement through his early writings on poverty and more recently with his 2009 book The Life You Can Save.

Many of the business leaders we feature on this show, especially those in the animal-free protein space, are motivated by philosophical underpinnings to their work that are likely related to or even directly stemming from Peter Singer’s writings.

In this interview Peter doesn’t disappoint nor does he shy away from tough subjects. We discuss a wide range of topics, including his views on the role technology and entrepreneurship play in helping animals along with the role charities play, too. We get into whether he has any regrets over publicly taking certain views in his 50-year career. And we discuss whether he thinks animals are better off today than when he first wrote Animal Liberation in 1975.

Peter offers his views on the ethics of eating oysters, adoption of children vs. procreation, colonizing other planets, and more. And now that he’s in his mid-70s, he also talks about what he hopes his obituaries will say, which hopefully won’t be written for a long time.

Whether you agree with Peter on a particular issue or not, there’s no doubt you’ll come away from this interview with a great appreciation for his commitment to doing the most good he can in the world. 

Discussed in this episode

More about Peter Singer

Peter Singer is often referred to as the “world’s most influential living philosopher.” He’s best known for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, he’s often credited with starting the modern animal protection movement, and he’s had a major influence on the development of effective altruism.  He’s also known for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics.

Several key figures in the animal movement have said that Animal Liberation, first published in 1975, led them to get involved in the struggle to reduce the vast amount of suffering we inflict on animals.  To that end, Peter co-founded the Australian Federation of Animal Societies, now Animals Australia, the country's largest and most effective animal organization. His wife, Renata, and I stopped eating meat in 1971.

Peter is the founder of The Life You Can Save, an organization based on his book of the same name.  It aims to spread his ideas about why we should be doing much more to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty, and how we can best do this. You can view his TED talk on this topic here.

His writings in this area include: the 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” in which he argues for donating to help the global poor; and two books that make the case for effective giving, The Life You Can Save (2009) and The Most Good You Can Do (2015).

Peter has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, including Practical Ethics, The Expanding Circle, Rethinking Life and Death, One World, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason) and The Point of View of the Universe (with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek. His writings have appeared in more than 25 languages.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, Peter was educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford.  After teaching in England, the United States, and Australia, in 1999 he became Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.