On the 4th June 2016 I was in Paris for the fifth occasion of the walk for the closing of slaughterhouses organised by the French anti-speciesist association L214. Around 3 000 people of all ages, from all over France had gathered at Place de la Republique to raise their voice for the voiceless. The demonstration was awesome, lively, vibrant and so emotional. I met a lot of people, artists, singers, models and activists.
Brigitte Gothiere was the first one to answer my questions. She is co-founder and face of the association L214. She has appeared many times in the French media to denounce animal abuse following the broadcasting of videos taken undercover in slaughterhouses.
Thanks to L214, nobody in France can henceforth say ‘I did not know’.
I wanted to meet the remarkable woman behind the association, discover her journey of activism and share her vision of a compassionate world.
The recording is in French with English subtitles.
You can read the English transcript below.
Brigitte, good morning
Thank you for answering the questions of Vegan Fashion Venture. So the first thing I want to ask you is to introduce yourself.
I’m Brigitte Gothiere. I am one of the co-founders of the association L214. This is an association that I founded with other people.
We are from the anti-speciesist movement. It’s a political movement to change society and to go towards a non-speciesist society.
So yes, we decided to attempt to change the world, modestly…and make it possible for animals to no longer be considered resources for human disposal.
I’m 43 years old. I turned vegetarian at 20 years old then vegan around 25/30 years old. I cannot remember exactly when the transition occurred but the shift happened.
When I was 20, I was with Sebastien (Sebastien Arsac). We were together and we discussed the place granted to animals but without a real theoretical background, at least for me.
Why did you have this thought, because this is not necessarily something that comes naturally to mind?
That was not my fault. At this time, I was more engaged with humanitarian associations such as the Red Cross, associations for children, so I was already an activist, against racism etc … for human rights.
But it was him that brought the thought. Well we were anti-hunting, anti bull-fighting but without so much thought, just that this was something that seemed to be abnormal, unfounded.
When he read a comic by Jodorowsky about Buddha’s life, he realised that entire countries did not consume products from animal origin, or more precisely, didn’t consume animals.
There is no coherence between being anti bull-fighting and eating meat … I believe we all need coherence. This came after, through the ‘cahiers antispecistes’ review in which philosophers and people, who spoke, took time to write and to think.
This was very well structured unlike us. 5 years ago, we were completely isolated, in Auvergne, there was no Internet and so we were as ‘2 little noodles’ isolated who had changed their lives, a change that was not understandable by our family. We had a lot of comments: ‘this will pass’, ‘ we had a hippie period ourselves’ but in fact nothing passed.
Conversely, this became stronger, fed by the meetings we had. A key meeting was in 1998, when we met the team of the ‘cahiers antispecistes’ review, David Olivier, Yves Bonnardel, Estiva Reus and Françoise Blanchon.
They founded the magazine, David in particular, and their thoughts nourished us.
There was a little activist group in Lyon and we enlisted there and began to do our first table of information. Our first leaflet was dense, writing everywhere, without any pictures. We were very motivated.
I don’t know this anti-speciesist magazine….
‘Les cahiers anti-specistes’ have been published since 1991.
This is a magazine of thought and action around animal questions, oriented to animal equality, animal freedom, so deeply anchored in anti-speciesism and in it we can find the first translations of Peter Singer, Gary Francione and Thomas Regan.
Is it regularly published?
Completely irregularly. At the beginning, it was every 3 months, now it’s completely sporadic.
I joined the editorial team very quickly and for the moment this consists of making available texts that already exist somewhere else.
So texts from the three major founders and after them many others including Carol Adams, translations from Donaldon and Kymlicka who wrote Zoopolis, there is a special issue about them, Melanie Joe as well.
Our aim is to bring these overseas thoughts to feed thought here in France around these topics. There are original texts by David (Olivier), Estiva (Reus) and Yves (Bonnardel).
These are L214’s foundations on which we are anchored. We have no certainty on how we should go forward.
The transition for example?
Transition, it’s indeed thoughts that are coming now. Because at the beginning, when we were involved, we didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We knew that something should be done for animals, that the situation was wrong but perhaps we didn’t authorise ourselves to think about the end, that change could happen and that animals were no longer eaten or exploited.
But today we think that this is completely possible. And then, what are the different steps to follow?
That is a real thought and we will push on that. Donaldon and Kymlicka with Zoopolis suggest a model of society that could occur in the coming years and we will continue to think about that.
I read the thoughts of Green Peace to end nuclear energy with projections at 20, 30, 50 and 100 years and I find that very interesting precisely for the tangible processes they propose.
Can you tell us what the differences are between anti-speciesism, veganism and welfarism.
Yes, I can.
Veganism for me is a lifestyle that stems from, or not in fact because there are vegans who have just stopped using products from animal exploitation, but veganism for me is just a consequence of anti-speciesism.
When people refuse an arbitrary frontier between on one side humans and on the other side animals, with humans who can do what they want to animals on the pretext of a difference in species.
But this doesn’t justify the difference in the treatment in the acknowledgment of animal interests. Anti-speciesism is really the philosophy and the thought and veganism is more the lifestyle based on anti-speciesism. It’s the practical application. Once our society will be anti-speciesist, then it will be vegan.
And for the welfarism, it is when we fight for the welfare of animals without questioning the exploitation itself.
So L214 is not a welfarist association.
Exactly, L214 is not a welfarist association. Abolitionism underpins our action. However, we have sectorial campaigns during which we ask for practical actions in a sector, for example the end of battery cages for laying hens, the end of force-feeding, which are practical actions achievable today and in this case we join welfarist campaigns.
But our discourse will be different because, for example for the campaign against battery cages, we don’t say to people eat eggs from hens raised in the open air, we will say that it is unacceptable today for a civilized society to continue to close animals in cages. Public opinion in France indicates that 90% of people are against to close laying hens in cages.
These sectorial campaigns are gateways. This means that when we approach someone in the street by saying that we are trying to stop this store selling eggs from laying hens raised in battery cages, a discussion begins around animal questions, and then on the battery farming everybody agrees that this is dreadful, horrible and will unveil the rest.
This is an approach to take people from where they are and to bring them further in their thought and they are often prone to that. We meet very few psychopaths who say that they really don’t care about animals, whatever happens to them. No, people are interested. Of course they find it terrible to close animals in cages and when we tell them the whole truth, they say ‘I didn’t realise, I didn’t know that’ and this is where the discussion becomes very interesting, very rich, and we can go a step further.
We see that this is a movement that grows. In L214 we really see the trend with the increasing number of people who get in touch. And also with the number of supporters. We had 5 000 supporters at the end of 2014, 10 000 at the end of 2015 and we have more than 15 000 today. It is very fast, very very fast. And we overtook 500 000 followers on Facebook, which is incredible for an organisation that isn’t hiding its promotion of veganism, which dares to state that there is something completely abnormal
It’s really a growing movement. We can see that through media and how many articles are published today in France about veganism. Whether as a lifestyle or as a philosophy, with real dossiers.
On the investigation about the slaughterhouse of Mauléon – Licharre, the newspaper Le Monde had a headline on its cover sheet and a consistent report of several pages.
The newspaper Liberation a few weeks after published an entire report on the slaughterhouses issue. It is a matter that really begins to challenge society. Questions are asked. Legitimacy of eating animals is raised.
It is full of hope and clearly it is hope that nourishes us.
Do you propose that animals have the right to live completely, without any suffering or is it an equality of rights between animals and humans?
No it is not an equality of rights! It‘s an equality of taking into account interests and indeed what you said first the right to live the best possible life.
Anti-speciesism is this sphere of humans rights extended to the legitimate rights of animals, but the right to vote for hens is insane. It is more to take into account their interests.
It is respecting differences.
It is respecting differences, It’s exactly that.
What are the relationships with public institutions?
Relationships with public institutions, it depends at which level. We have very few relationships with politicians.
But we know that we reach them. For the parliamentary commission on the slaughterhouses, we have been invited to the National Assembly and we were able to explain at different levels the issue around the slaughterhouses.
We were the first to be received and the fact that a parliamentary commission was able to listen to the challenging of the slaughterhouses seemed to be very important for us.
They could have said ‘no, we don’t want to listen to you because we want to hear from associations of public interest that we have heard for a long time etc…’ No, we were also received there.
What would I like for the association? In fact, my warmest wish would be that it disappears because this will mean that it has no further use, that we have reached a society that does no longer exploit animals.
So on a daily basis, I work for the destruction of the association.
Me, I am nobody. I’m a voice for animals among many other voices but I try to raise my voice the loudest I can.