Among the animal rights associations, the 269Life Animal Liberation association has a special status in the heart of activist militants. It represents the vanguard in the fight for the defence of animals. It is an anti-speciesist and abolitionist association that dares civic disobedience. It organises spectacular and disturbing actions that regularly drive its members into custody.
Calf 269 is a male calf who was rescued by anonymous activists on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, days before his planned slaughter.
I did not know Tiphaine Lagarde, the co-president of 269 Life Animal Liberation France, before this interview. I saw her several times in TV reports and every time I was seized by her mixture of fragility and determination. I wanted to go further and find out who was the woman behind the activist.
This is her interview.
The recording is in French with English subtitles.
The extracts from the action videos are those of the association.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words and tell us who you are?
My name is Tiphaine Lagarde, I am French, I am 33 years old. I worked in a notary office for two years before devoting myself to what I was passionate about, animals, by dedicating a doctoral thesis to them.
I also give courses at the faculty of law and therefore I try to carry out both activist and academic activities.
When did you turn vegan?
I began by becoming a vegetarian at the age of 15 at the same time as my little sister because we watched a video on a slaughterhouse that had deeply upset us. In fact I became vegan later at the age of 25 when the subject began to emerge and I realised that being a vegetarian was not enough, that one must go one step beyond and be vegan. So it was a gradual process, first vegetarian and then vegan and then activist!
So when you say vegan, there I see you with a jacket, can you talk to me about your jacket?
It’s faux leather. It is true that today, in clothing, we can find imitations that are perfect!
Tiphaine, I wanted to meet with you especially because of your role as president of the 269 Life association. Can you tell us a bit about this association and what it is exactly?
The association is called 269 Life Liberation Animale. It is a “shock association”. That is to say that it advocates a rather aggressive activism in the area of animal rights.
Its main feature is also to implement direct actions i.e. to enter the slaughterhouses, to demonstrate in front of the headquarters of agro-food groups etc.
Our goal is really to show that they are enemies, the tenants of speciesism, large animal exploitation groups, and we really try to incriminate them, to expose them as enemies, to disturb them, to challenge them, to tell them that there is a social movement today. People talk about it more and more and so they must listen to the people and the citizens who do not agree with the way in which animals are treated.
And this is the main objective of 269, to go to the front line and claim it as an effective anti-specisist strategy.
People know very well that animals are not happy in farms and that they will not commit suicide voluntarily in slaughterhouses. We want to go further. We really want to shock them and make them feel guilty. We make very bloody happenings. It’s true that going through something very visual is imperative for us because otherwise people do not stop.
So they stop and once people have been shocked, they will question themselves and we, in addition, read a speech. During these actions, I often am on megaphone with a speech that is deliberately very intellectual. So it is true that with the speech and the visual shock, people make the connection and understand what we are speaking about.
It is true that we play a lot on guilt and responsibility. You must make consumers feel guilty. You must tell them you are as responsible as the slaughterhouse employees, they are doing your dirty work.
What is your position in relation to pets?
We are against pets. It is quite radical indeed, we believe that animals do not have to be assigned to a function and when we say “pet”, it is because we have designated some animals to serve as a company for us and to fill our lack of affection. So of course not by euthanising the pets already born but to stop the system of production of pets. So that animals become free beings even if the domesticated breeds would disappear. This is necessarily the consequence of the abolitionist position, but it is claimed as such.
Some activists and you too, you brand ‘269’ on your skin with a red-hot iron, isn’t it a little radical as an approach?
Yes, it is very radical but it is declared as radical. For 269, we actually have to create a culture shock, and how do we do it? Because it is not easy to deconstruct an entire culture based on human supremacy. So for 269 we need to shock.
And what can be used by the activists of the animal cause who do not have the numbers, we do not have 15,000 people on the street, and do not have the millions of euros that large food groups have. So well, we still have our body. It can be used by being with an iron like animals to show that one has the same suffering body as an animal. And it is really a message that is anti-speciesist, it is a symbolic gesture and it is also, for the activist who makes it, a commitment to life in the animal cause.
So Tiphaine, when we wanted to prepare for this interview on the telephone, we were interrupted several times, specifically because you were in custody.
So yes custody, jail is part of the actions that define 269 life since it advocates civil disobedience, inherited from a long tradition that passes through Gandhi, Martin Luther King etc. That is simply to say that since the law is speciesist, it is unjust and since the law is unjust it is necessary to disobey. So how to disobey in 269? By demonstrating mostly in slaughterhouses to actually block the chain of slaughter and thus to simply upset the people who control the slaughterhouse.
Your actions are condemned for obstructing the freedom of work and that means 1 year of prison and €15 000 fines?
In the best case! The employers of the slaughterhouses try to obtain what is effectively called the offense of obstructing the freedom of work but with threats. So here the prison sentence is increased to 3 years and the damages to €45 000. It is very rare that the prosecutor follows this logic since we are not threatening, we are quite pacifist. We do not attack anyone and we do not sabotage property. But one day, it is inevitable that we will be sentenced to a heavy penalty but that is a risk we accept.
During our conversations, at one point when I tried to reach you, you were no longer in custody, you were in the sanctuary. What is this sanctuary?
A feature of the association is to have a shelter in fact, a sanctuary for animals that we saved from the slaughterhouse to enable them to have a new life and above all to have the quality of being. This sanctuary is really considered as a militant gesture, because for us it is as if we had a small piece of land that was taken over from the enemy. In the small area of the sanctuary, there is no more speciesism, the animals are at home. They live free together with their friendships, one can say, because one sees them, their own little stories. But it is really essential for us, it is the project that is most important to us.
Is this a place you keep secret?
Yes indeed, because our militant activities generate many enemies. We prefer to keep this sanctuary secret in case one day there is retaliation. Since the stand-up nights in front of the slaughterhouses that we organised, there had been a lot of protests of livestock farmers on this occasion and it is true that from that moment there have been a few articles that have come out identifying us with first names, surnames and even for some their address. We noticed a rise in threats and it is true that I am more and more apprehensive, and not so much for myself but especially for the animals of the sanctuary, I am afraid they could be targeted because it is so easy to hurt them and that is really why we are very cautious about the location of the refuge.
Thiphaine, we will conclude this interview. What you would like to say as a final word to the people who will watch this video?
I’m not going to speak to the vegans, it serves no purpose! But really to encourage people who are beginning to become interested in this subject, really to realise that as citizens they have a power in their hands that is the most precious power in the world to deny death and suffering to millions of beings and that we should not neglect that we are all political actors. Behind the acts that one does, one must always have a thought. So today we act without thinking and actually, being vegan is simply reintroducing the thought behind the act.
Thank you very much Tiphaine!
The following audio is an excerpt from the French speech 269Life Animal Liberation read by Tiphaine for the end of speciesism Lagarde in Geneva on August 27, 2016