We find Madame Brigitte Gothière for the 2nd part of our interview.
- I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment. You very often employ unconventional methods, shall we say, to obtain clandestine images without the knowledge of the owners or managers of the sites. Have you noticed that the fact of illegally entering private property to steal images somewhat undermines the effectiveness of the message within the public sphere and the legislator, or not at all?
I will not explain the conditions under which we can obtain images but very clearly, it serves as a bit of a red rag for certain politicians who do not hesitate to speak of clandestine methods of L214 . But in reality, these are rather empty excuses to dodge the discussions. To dwell on the methods of obtaining the images is to avoid having to respond to these images. These are cowardly methods. They try to draw attention to the form to the detriment of the substance but it doesn't work because the images speak for themselves. And to refuse to answer them is to take big electoral risks. Today, the public expects very concrete actions in matters of breeding, slaughter, transport of animals. And that comes out in all the polls. I think in reality, those who are still relaying FNSEA messages and the others are on old software and they will end up picking up. It is obligatory. Times are changing. There is a very strong citizen expectation in ecological and health matters. So the old springs and the old maneuvers will be gone.
- So would you say that your enemy is political or economic?
Well both my captain! If I take the example of the FNSEA, it represents its own interests. It represents the agro-food sectors. Why is the FNSEA going to demonstrate in front of supermarkets and not slaughterhouses? because who buys them cheap meat? These are the slaughterhouses. And when we talk to the breeders, they talk to us about their debt; the cooperatives and the banks keep them. They tell us that they are unable to cope and that they absolutely do not feel represented by the FNSEA. The FNSEA speaks loudly. She has the media's voice, she has the ear of politicians, but it stops there. You can see it in supermarkets. The offer is gradually changing. Commitments are made, even if it is very long. In fact, there have never been any radical changes. These are long times. Nevertheless, the plant is progressing in supermarkets. The decline in the worst farming conditions is also a reality in supermarkets. For example, all supermarkets are committed to respecting the criteria of the “European chicken commitment” on the conditions of raising and slaughtering chickens, which eliminates all rapidly growing strains. You should know that nowadays, a chicken has grown 4 times faster than in 1950 for example. Chickens are the highest raised and slaughtered animals in France. We are therefore faced with very important economic and political interests which are in reality the voices that have remained in the past. We can see that with the Demeter cell. This agreement which is signed between the Gendarmerie, the Ministry of the Interior, the FNSEA and young farmers who are the two unions most hostile to changes in models and which put under surveillance the activists of the animal and environmental issue. Let us also take the eloquent example of pesticides, more relevant than ever.
This is indeed a totally retrograde view of what should be done in reality.
- Finally, in your opinion, who will really get things done: professional organizations, the executive by means of laws, the consumer by his act of purchase?
I think we're going to walk on all our legs actually. The solution will not come from one player in particular. We must move forward on all of these pillars, like what is happening with laying hens. Initially, it was consumers who began to change their consumption habits regarding eggs from laying hens in cages. Supermarkets have noticed this new trend. This movement was then relayed more directly by NGOs by addressing supermarkets by making public their non-engagement, for example. It could be "name and shame" but also "name and fame". The idea was to put both economic and political actors who are engaged and those who are not on our websites with complete transparency. The legislator, who was clearly lagging behind in this specific issue, will ultimately ban the breeding of laying hens in cages. We can see that the three levels respond to each other to obtain a less worse result in the conditions of raising and slaughtering animals. Before completely leaving the animals alone even if we are still very far away.
You were talking about mass production. Indeed, there is also this decrease in the number of animals which are raised and killed for food consumption, which is a real issue in the revegetation of our food. Switch from meat (meat, milk, egg and fish) to vegetal. With L214, we are in three fields of action: action on mentalities. How to ensure that animals are recognized as sentient beings and that they are taken into account. That there be an acute societal awareness of their breeding and slaughter conditions. There is also a change in the agricultural model and roll back what is done worst for animals, such as intensive farming as well as a number of slaughter conditions that are scientifically recognized as being worse than others. And finally the revegetation. Namely the change of food model which modifies the animal / plant ratio. I would take the example of Veggoresto which lists 2,700 100% vegan restaurants. But there is still a long way to go when we know that today the animal share represents 80% of our diet. While in terms of climate and public health issues, the medical profession recommends the opposite. And when, like us, we fight for the animal condition, obviously, we advocate 100% vegetable. Like Pythagoras, already very sensitive to the animal condition in his time with virulent writings, we question the legitimacy of killing animals in order to eat them. You see, the debate is not new and has continued throughout history.
On a political level, things are also moving a little bit. I will quote the municipalities on which we positioned ourselves for the first time in 2020 by proposing a charter: "A city for animals" in which there were a certain number of levers of action which gave a roadmap for the municipal authorities. . It was started in cities like Paris, Grenoble, Saint Etienne, Nancy, Lyon or Bordeaux where we see an action in these municipalities which include in their public orders the provision of plant and vegetarian options. Take the example of canteens. We can also see that it is progressing a little bit. And it allowed me to see that a certain number of elected officials are sincerely committed to the animal cause. I would even say that it was an elected official who changed my opinion on policies. When I founded L214 , I was very suspicious. We said to ourselves: no need to talk to politicians. Anyway, they don't care. They don't care. Initially, our action was mainly directed towards consumers and businesses. And then it was Laurence Abeille, the aptly named !, who came to us and offered her help in order to find out what she could do to lead our actions higher and stronger. With her partner Geneviève Gaillard, she encouraged us to create the collective: Animal politique . They were both on the Animal Condition group in the National Assembly which was then taken up during this term by Loic Dombreval. Their very sincere commitments made us move from a policy observatory to something more pro-active with commitments at different levels. Thus we were able to create a charter for the regional: "A region for animals" which obtained the signatures of 39 heads of lists who voted for a pragmatic and useful regional roadmap in order to initiate a transition in terms of animal condition. .
- If I ask you whether to put an end to intensive farming, you will answer yes. But how and with what would you replace them? How to reconcile animal welfare and mass food?
It goes on two legs. Reducing and banning intensive farming means consuming less. Which incidentally would be an excellent thing for the environment. And the Supermarkets will fully agree to play the game and extend the offer to plants by reducing animals. Look at Danone which has just bought Alpro with their 100% vegetable products. Something is really changing there. The offer changes. Without forgetting the institutional messages in which we recommend taking the bike instead of the car, showers instead of baths. Why are we not advised to consume vegetarian dishes instead of meat dishes. So see all the actions that need to be implemented around the end of intensive breeding. And this is part of our call against intensive breeding which is signed by more than 200 NGOs and personalities with first, a moratorium. We no longer build a new farm. Then, we set up a conversion plan for this agricultural model in collaboration with the stakeholders, a conversion plan also for breeders towards other production methods, other jobs and then, finally, to arrive at the final stage of the revegetation of food. These three areas go together.
- What relationship do you have with the food industry? Only confrontational relationships or are there exchanges between you that could lead to forms of collaboration?
No, there is very little confrontation in reality. The number of companies involved is very important. The number 2 of the Système U brand, Thierry Desouches said that thanks to the friendly pressure that L214 had put, great advances were possible. Of course, we are running public campaigns against those that we believe are not going in the right direction. There are also the companies which walk us around with: “yes yes, we will see you again in 6 months and we take stock”.
Lately, we had Florian Bachelier, deputy of the Republic on the move, who said that the sanctions imposed on associations like L214 should be increased following complaints from the Avril group saying that we had shown the breeding of hens in cages or window cows. They did not like it and they therefore complained to this deputy who took over. I simply regret that the latter did not come to meet us so that we have the opportunity to explain ourselves and expose the facts as we saw them before he made a public demand for sanction against us.
- The themes of "animal welfare" and "ethics" are very topical. In January 2021, the law on animal abuse was adopted in France on first reading. It followed suit with a number of more or less similar laws in other countries of the world. Do you think this is a good law? Do you see any gaps or possible areas for improvement?
I have the impression that the notion of animal welfare is some kind of fairy tale that there could be animal welfare in the production of meat. We try to imagine that we are eating animals that have been happy, while dodging, of course, the slaughterhouse because we must not look this reality in the face and then we know very well that what is there. not is excruciating ,. This is where they lose their lives. It is really a notion that we invented. In some of the surveys we have carried out in slaughterhouses, many officials have responded by saying: "yes, animal welfare is very important for us". This is to say how much we try to deceive our brain which seizes all the excuses to give itself a clear conscience. We try to invent points of coherence because we do not live well when we are not coherent. As I told you, it is a wonderful fairy tale on a planetary scale. We eat meat and we have animal welfare. Interesting to note that we are not talking about animal welfare for wild animals. We talk about it for the animals in captivity to try to mask all the situations where they are in the “worst-being” animal.
Regarding ethics, we are faced with sentient beings, who have a capacity to feel emotions, who have the desire to live. We talk about their intelligence, their culture. So, we realize that we have completely passed by by treating them to be inferior. And yet, they have common interests with us and in particular those of not suffering, of not being tortured. Ethics should therefore be at the heart of our reflection and it is not. This is a real problem. However, ethics should take us out of the era of slaughterhouses. Meat, milk, eggs, fish, finished all that.
For the laboratories, it is still something else. There are very few surveys carried out. It is very difficult to get pictures. In addition, they hide behind legitimacy by evoking the progress of medicine when many products are only about cosmetology and not at all about survival. At L214 , we have made a conscious decision to focus on animals that are raised for food consumption. The only experiments we have shown are window cows. A cow on the side of which scientists have made an opening and placed a cannula closed by a valve, to be able to optimize production with the least possible inputs. The same was happening with chickens and pigs.
We had shown pictures of the dogs of Gannat in Auvergne where beagles were bred only for the purpose of experimentation. They were introducing genetic defects into these dogs so that they could be researched.
But in the end, we prefer to stay on animals intended to be eaten, which does not prevent us from relaying information to other associations such as One voice , Animal testing , or the Brigitte Bardot Foundation , among others.
The real question in this area is: will we have to sacrifice sentient beings to advance medicine? And if so which ones? Perhaps medicine will also have to consider other means to obtain results instead of falling into the ease and habit of using animals. These questions seem to me more complex than that of meat because nutritionally speaking, we do not need them. Some associations like Antidote Europe or Pro Anima have already answered this question by saying that the experiments are totally useless.
Personally, I do not feel qualified enough to answer but I think that today science, in its way of approaching the problem, does not consider animals as sentient beings and suddenly it does not even wonder how it would be possible to proceed without animals.
- Vegetarianism and veganism are trends that are developing but still remain marginal. To say nowadays that one is vegan is to run the risk of being seen as an original almost coming out of a sect. Why is it not faster in your opinion? Is it a question of information? training? Or is it due to more deeply rooted things like education or traditions?
You are right. Education is paramount. We have a branch of our association called L214 education which publishes a journal called : Mon journal animal pour les 10/14 ans and which also offers important educational material for teachers in the fields of ethology, cognitive science, what are animals? who are the people who defend them? etc. There is also an education for chefs.
In the climate bill, there is the proposal for a weekly vegetarian menu, a daily vegetarian alternative and the training of kitchen staff. We can see that it can only work. I will take the example of sorting trash cans. Who taught us how to sort the trash? Well, these are our children. Hence the hope that this youth arouses. Another very concrete example that comes to mind. I took part in discussions and a sixty-year-old came to see me telling me that her children had stopped eating meat and that, suddenly, she would like to better understand why. This young generation is super active. We are talking about 10% vegetarians - vegans among the students.
But it would be wrong to believe that it is just a question of age. We recently received a letter from an 80-year-old lady who was wondering how she could have overlooked veganism for so long. So I think it's possible at any age. For more than 10 years, I have had to meet political or business decision-makers who tell me that they have people in their immediate circle who have stopped eating meat. I can see that the young generation is very sensitive to the animal question. And it is she who pushes others towards other consumption habits. I even manage to joke with parliamentarians who were totally resistant ten years ago and who today have changed their point of view.
However, resistance persists among meat consumers. To start with you. Let me explain. The simple fact that you exist, you question the relationship to meat. You come to shake up this paradox of meat that they had managed to manage until then and to concrete well.
- Before leaving us, can you tell us about your news? What are your projects ? Important elections are looming, will you take advantage of them?
We will continue in all the axes available to us. Legislative and presidential elections are approaching. We fully intend to move a National Assembly which appears to us backward and frozen in matters of animal and ecological causes. We will continue our actions towards businesses. At the moment, we are trying to convince the LDC company which is a giant in the production of chickens, turkeys and others. We would like them to commit at least to the “European Chicken Commitment”. We have our actions aimed at catering companies to systematically offer a vegan alternative in their menu. We have a campaign against intensive farming and new construction. We will redouble our efforts in this area. In the Hauts de France, a demonstration took place because there are many projects in preparation in this region. So, we support all the opponents of the projects.
As part of our education program, we are preparing the next issues. As usual, we will have investigations and I can tell you that there will be other reports. More and more whistleblowers are coming to us. The source is therefore very far from drying up. As L214 becomes known, there are more and more people turning to us, employees or former employees, to denounce the abuses.
I will take the example of Mauricio Garcia Perreira who had been a worker for six years at the Limoges slaughterhouse. When he saw the images that we showed on Ales for example, he called me and said to me, but it is nothing compared to what happens at home every day. And it was he who showed us the slaughter of pregnant cows with the fetuses thrown in the trash. It is indeed legal, but it is an outrageous practice. He couldn't stand it anymore and he wondered what he could do at his level to put an end to it.
I have come to the end of our interview, Madame Gothière. Maybe you want to add something?
Yes, I would like to say that the action is above all individual. Each and every one can act through their mode of consumption on a daily basis. It is a way for us to decide on our agricultural and food model. And I assure you that it is a very powerful means. Did you know that it is 6 times more efficient to eat 100% vegetables than to eat local if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? It represents 40% of the effect of our individual actions if we eat vegetarian. And then there is collective action. Find an association that looks like you. Join forces or create your own association. Collective action is essential. This is how we obtain all the societal advances. Act individually or collectively. We have a page on our site dedicated to this topic. Don't just sit back and think there is nothing we can do. It is not true. Take action!
It only remains for me to thank you for the time you have given us and for giving our readers the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful association.
We will continue to follow your news regularly.