The animal welfare movements, at the centre of the L214 association's demands and its attacks on slaughterhouses, are shaking up the established order of French agriculture and gastronomy, long after the Anglo-Saxon countries.
Che weekend, from Paris to Saint-Nazaire via Montpellier, Colmar, Lille or La Rochelle, "vegan" and "anti-speciesist" picnics and marches took place. These activists are opposed to the consumption of meat. But also against bullfighting or animal experimentation. Advocating the equality of all living beings, the vegans do not wear leather clothes either.
The broadcast of shocking videos by the L124 association led to an inspection of the country's 259 slaughterhouses and the closure of three of them in April.
"A silent holocaust"
Last Thursday, the association Life 269 organized vigils in front of 33 slaughterhouses in France, Belgium and Switzerland to "draw public attention to a silent holocaust".
Life269 came out of the shadows with a bang in 2012 in Tel Aviv. Three half-naked activists held a public torch tattoo session of number 269, the tattoo of a calf they had rescued from the slaughterhouse on a farm, on their own skin.
These movements, driven by the food crises around mad cow disease or avian flu, are surfing on an ecological and radical wave.
Xavier Beulin, the head of the main agricultural union FNSEA, was not mistaken: "The aim of these organisations is to "bring shame to meat". "With these videos, the question of meat consumption is being raised.
The link established in 2015 by the WHO between certain cancers and over-consumption of red meat has reinforced the trend. "How many food crises will we have to face before people realize that animal proteins are not good for us? "said Jasminj de Boo, president of the Vegan society, founded in 1944 in Great Britain.
Veganism" is better accepted in Anglo-Saxon countries, whereas it remains militant in France.
In the United States, where California has banned foie gras, Chicago, the former slaughterhouse capital, long nicknamed Hogtown (The City of Pigs), has become one of the most vegetarian cities in the country, according to the Association for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The historical thinker of anti-meat, a philosopher of animal rights, is the Australian Peter Singer, who holds the chair of ethics at Princeton (USA). His bestseller, "Animal Liberation", published in 1975, is the founding book of modern animal rights movements. He argues against "speciesism" by asserting that "all animals are equal" from the moment they are capable of suffering or being sentient.
Decrease in consumption
In France, the word "vegan" made its debut at the Larousse only in 2015. And it is still difficult for a hard-core vegetarian to eat in a restaurant, despite the changes that followed the spectacular abandonment of red meat by starred chef Alain Passard in the 1990s.
One of the French references in the field of animal law, Florence Burgat, philosopher at the Institut national de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), was auditioned by the parliamentary commission of inquiry set up after the broadcast of the videos of L214.
Other French references: the philosopher Michel Onfray, radical defender of the animal cause, or the journalist Aymeric Caron, author of an essay entitled "anti-speciesist".
On the meat side, the resistance is getting organized. Butchers launched seduction operations: "24 hours at my butcher's" or "aperitif at my butcher's". "With an average of 37.5 g per day of cooked meat, 72% of French people consume much less than the limit of 70 g of meat per day recommended by the National Nutrition and Health Programme (PNNS)," points out Bruno Hérault, from the Ministry of Agriculture in the magazine "l'Actu culture viande".
"Since 1998, meat consumption has been declining, leading to a decrease in sheep (-32% between 1991 and 2013) and cattle (-12%)," he adds.
"A food model in jeopardy"
At the breeders', they take out the knives. On the right, the Rural Coordination "mobilizes" with the livestock traders. "We won't let a few excited people undermine the credibility of our noble profession," says Joseph Martin, president of the Coordination rurale d'Ille et Vilaine, denouncing "deceptive stagings and manipulation of figures.
On the left, the Confédération paysanne (Farmers' Confederation) castigates a campaign that "attacks livestock farming and endangers peasant employment, our food model and the life of our territories". In the union's monthly magazine, Vincent Delmas, a farmer in the Drôme region of France, reminds us of a peasant truth: "without death, life is not possible".
"In our society, many people no longer accept death. Vegans, vegans and other transhumanists are examples of this," he said. "You can't harvest wheat without flattening hundreds of grasshoppers. L124 should film the inside of a harvester, many would stop eating bread! »