I have been a vegan for several years now and I have watched lots of videos on animal abuse in slaughterhouses, hunting, fishing, bullfighting and zoos, but until recently, I hadn’t seen or read anything about vivisection.
So when I heard about Audrey Jougla’s book Occupation: Laboratory animal I rushed to buy it. I found it very courageous to release a book on animal experimentation during the fundraising telethon period. The book exposes practices from another time that question our ethics.
Both the medical and military corps are engaged in unjustifiable and atrocious experiments on all kinds of animals, rodents, rabbits, pigs, dogs, monkeys… But vivisection is not the exclusive domain of scientists. It is above all the field of predilection for merchandising. I knew that animals were used to dermatologically test the products that will be in contact with human skin such as cosmetics or dish washing liquid, but it had never occurred to me that the anti-lime gel used in my loo could have been given as drink to rabbits in order to confirm its corrosiveness.
I learned a lot from reading Audrey’s book and I wanted to know what could have brought a young doctoral student in philosophy to investigate the secret laboratories of hospitals.
Here is Audrey’s video interview.
The recording is in French with English subtitles. The script is available in French and English.
Hello my name is Audrey Jougla. I live in Paris. I’m 31 years old. I’m completing a professorship and doctorate in philosophy and I wrote Occupation: laboratory animal. And I created the Animal testing association a few months ago to continue the investigations on animal testing.
I have several activities that are not competing at all but are linked. One does not spontaneously link them but there are many things that respond and echo and feed into each other. So journalists often ask me “is it really you singing with the red wig?” So this has nothing to do with academic and university seriousness.
The message is often the same; it is to be tuned to others. In singing, there is a much more artistic dimension that is developed but it is also to be the spokesperson of something, messages, writing, because I write my songs, I write my texts. Finally there are many links in writing, in projecting the voice… and generosity I think. For myself, music has always been a group and team thing, in the same way that the association is a team activity and it is very important to do things together because alone we cannot do great things.
So when I was young, I had a strong interest in animal rights and I subscribed to L’info-journal, the Bardot Foundation’s newspaper. Indeed, we could see images about slaughterhouses and lots of things about vivisection. This is something that moved me a lot, I found it absolutely atrocious and especially we feel very powerless when faced with that. As a child I was moved a lot.
When I started to militate, later, when I was twenty years old, I started to leaflet, to demonstrate, all that and it is true that the first demonstration that I attended was a demonstration against vivisection.
And that’s when I realised that it was not very clear as a topic. And that finally, in terms of information, as a citizen, one did not necessarily have access to many things. And I wanted to know more, to know if it always existed because when you leaflet people tell you that it no longer exists. And it is true that on this topic there was a great void after the 90s. We have not heard much about it. We have talked more about slaughterhouses, meat and so on. And vivisection remained a relegated topic in the 1990s and it was not talked about much.
Reading on page 137: “The laboratory animals were the “broken faces” of the animal world. Those on whom we had tried everything. The ugly, the crippled. Rodents are used, for example, to test the allergic reactions caused by certain products such as sunscreens. They’re epilated. They are given sunscreen and placed under UV lamps. The lamps have nothing to do with those of the sunbeds we know; they are much stronger and the rodents stay there for hours. Hours. Obviously their skin protected by their thick hair is absolutely not accustomed to direct exposure to the rays. Some die grilled. ”
I turned to animal ethics to dig deeper into this subject, political ecology, pragmatic philosophy, all that and that’s where I thought there is something to be done on the issue of animal experimentation.
When you write a thesis on a topic, there are always very personal echoes. These are links that I understood very well after doing all this work and all this investigation. That is, they were not conscious motivations.
Reading p 163: “My maternal grandfather was deported to Buchenwald. He managed to escape, thanks to the help of a cook. He was part of a group of victims of Nazi experimentation. ”
In the case of my grandfather, I had not made the link at first, not at all! It is by working on animal experimentation, realising how much the taboo that weighs on this topic is linked to a historical fact, to bad memories, to the medical history of experiments on people. The Nuremberg doctors’ trial, which is the basis of the obligation to experiment on animals. Everything is very intertwined and it is where it actually appeared to me as an echo that is not a conscious motivation or a reason but at least as something that echoed part of my family history.
Reading p 213: “I found a place where I could speak, it was the psychologist’s office.
“Did you have animals when you were a child?” He asked me.
“Yes,” I replied, not quite understanding what the point of the question was.
– And … what kind of animals did you have?
Then, in a surge of surprise and astonishment, as if I had never been able to make the connection till this day, I felt my throat tighten and heard myself respond.
– Guinea pigs. ”
When I was little, I wrote to Brigitte Bardot and I told her that when I grow up I will do things for animals and that it was not possible for the moment as a little girl. I always feel emotional when I talk about it. When the book came out I sent it to her and photocopies of the letters my parents had kept as well. And so she answered me and she responded to each letter and to the book. I was very moved to have a response from the one who inspired me so much when I was little, regarding the animal cause.
I think that when one loves animals so much, sometimes it is because of human disappointment, and then one turns to the animals or else to this need to protect the vulnerable.
And the unconditional love that animals have for humans, the faithfulness of dogs, all of that, and the innocence of the animals and it is true that it echoes a bit of a need for affection.
And after digging a little bit, I found the work of the sociologist Christophe Traïni who spoke much better than I, who had somewhat dug into this topic sociologically and who said that animals are so important to us, the visceral desire to defend them comes up because it fulfils a function that humans have not necessarily been able to fulfil in our life course.
I think the final message is that everything is possible. Because when I was interested in vivisection, associations and activists told me that infiltrating the laboratories, filming what is going on in them, is very, very, very difficult, almost impossible. I was nobody. Not that I am somebody today but what I mean is that I was not an association, however, with the means I had, I thought there might be something I could do and I did it, without knowledge, I learned by doing. And it is the same for the association, we learn by doing. Everything is possible and I think it’s very important, whether it’s for activists, people who want to change their lives, diet, try new things … you always have to think that everything is possible. Yeah … really!