March for the closure of slaughterhouses
Paris, Saturday 2nd June
Slaughterhouses, either on land or at sea,
are working at full capacity: every year, about 60 billion land animals are
killed; the number of caught fish is approximately 1000 billion, to which
hundreds of billions of victims of aquaculture can be added. Most of the
reared animals live a horrifying existence before they are put to death.
Yet, these bred or captured animals are conscious beings; they have
knowledge, desires, emotions.
We know human beings do not need animal
products to live a healthy life. The existence of millions of vegetarians
all over the world is ample evidence that it is possible to eat healthily
without taking part in this bloodshed. Farming practices produce enough
plant-based foodstuffs to provide each and everyone with a high quality
position of the American Dietetic Association
Meat, yes, but without making animals suffer?
This is the most commonly expressed view. But it is unrealistic to
imagine we can one day manage to offer a decent life and a painless death to
the billions of animals killed each year throughout the world for the human
How could a farmer who produces chicken meat with thousands of birds,
with the best of intentions in the world, ensure them appropriate living
conditions? How many millions of extra people would need to be paid to
properly look after the animals? Who will pay the tens of thousands of
inspectors who would be necessary to carefully check that standards are
being kept up?
Sacred life vs. Expendable life
Even perpetrated "decently," the murder of a human being is
considered the worst of crimes. Conversely, cutting the throat of animals in
slaughterhouses and the suffocation of fish out of water are trivialised
activities. A whole industry is working for it. How can such an asymmetry in
the value granted to the lives of the former and the latter be justified?
Closing slaughterhouses: a utopian project?
The moral condemnation of the mistreatment of animals is widely
shared: most people agree that they should not have to suffer for no good
reason, nor be killed without necessity.
It is factually true that farming, hunting and fishing kill, and that
they inflict considerable pain on animals. It is factually true that humans
do not need to consume animal products in order to lead healthy lives. Not
eating meat does not bar the way to a fulfilled life or the enjoyment of
Spontaneous changes in consumer behaviour are not sufficient to put
an end to the butchery. The problems of road safety, pollution, human
poverty or child abuse cannot be solved just by relying on the capacity of
each person to modify their habits to remedy the situation, even when they
are generally acknowledged to be wrong. In all of these areas, progress
demands resorting to legislation and public policies, which is justified
since mistreatment, torture and killing remain outside of the legitimate
domain of individual liberties.
It is a question of obtaining the consent of our societies to
eradicate this practice, based on the recognition of the great harm that it
causes to animals. This recognition only requires the effective application
of what is already common morality. The demand for meat abolition will take
place in the current political agenda. We can imagine its culmination within
the framework of institutions and social organisation that we already know.
An old demand
We have engaged in critical reflection about the implications of
animal use for food since antiquity and continue to today. From Plutarque to
Yourcenar, Voltaire or Gandhi, many renowned thinkers participated in this
reflection. Some societies refused killing for food, such as the Cathares
and a noteworthy part of the population of India or the wise Sufis. The
success of Jonathan Safran Foer�s book Eating Animals indicates this
reflection is, more than ever, a current concern.