Live vegan

The vast anthology concocted by Renan Larue reveals the long history of the plant-based diet, its activists and its detractors.

Meat consumption is constantly increasing around the world. It is a process that FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has been observing since the 1960s. If we count in millions of tonnes, meat consumption has increased fivefold. If we count the number of dead animals, the figure is even higher, thanks to the replacement of cattle by poultry. Meat is more than ever an essential part of global food culture. In France, according to Agreste and FranceAgriMer, meat consumption is once again on the rise, with an increase of 0.7% in 2021, and 0.8% in 2022. according to certain editorialists, however, veganism would be the fashion. This regime would endanger the French culinary heritage, established as a pillar of national culture, while conveying ideas that are at best absurd and at worst harmful. The fad of urban youth disconnected from nature, veganism is said to be a recently invented practice, and promised to disappear quickly. It is this idea thatVegan anthology is in breach. Renan Larue is professor of French literature at the University of California, where he founded the Vegan Studies. In France, he has already published Vegetarianism and its enemies (2015) as well as the latest edition What do I know? on veganism (2019) with Valry Giroux. He is also the author of the book Enlightenment vegetarianism (2019), published by Classiques Garnier. Renan Larue is a major author on the long history of veganism, from Antiquity to contemporary times. This Vegan anthology: 100 essential texts is his latest work to reveal the long history of the plant-based diet, too often forgotten, misunderstood or ignored.

The anthology is made up of 100 texts by various authors: philosophers, scholars, artists and authors, but also activists, journalists, politicians. These texts are not ordered by date of publication, but according to 14 themes: this organization facilitates connections between the different extracts proposed. In the introduction, Renan Larue writes: If reading the numerous pleas in favor of animals is an opportunity to outline the history of vegetarianism and veganism, it also allows us to understand the specificities of the current animalist movement (p. 14). The objective is therefore twofold: to recall the variety of thoughts from a long history of veganism, and to provide a framework for reading animalism today and the different paths available to it.

Countless actors and motivations

LVegan anthology effectively allows us to understand the plurality of actors and motivations that have marked animalism over the centuries. There is also an extract from the Foundation of Morality by Arthur Schopenhauer where the author does not hide his anti-Semitism, than a text written by Edgard Kupfer-Koberwitz, a survivor of Dachau whose diary served as evidence in the Nuremberg trials. The first states that one must be intoxicated by Jewish stench (p. 179) so as not to understand that the Earth has been unjustly made into a hell for animals, while the second, precisely at the heart of the hell of the Nazi concentration camps, writes that violence against men begins with violence against the beasts. He ends the anthology thus: I want to live in a better world, a world whose laws would be more just and more consistent with this divine command: Love all that is (p. 759). Veganism through history, and history through veganism. This work is all the more important as the history of animalism is often unknown to researchers and activists alike, if it is not deliberately swept under the rug. Many essays on American activism in the 1980s were written without ever mentioning groups as active as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or lAnimal Liberation Front (ALF). Many feminist activists have made the choice, as the feminist and animalist writer Carol J. Adams explains, to take up the theses of their colleagues from the XIXe century by knowingly omitting their views on animalism, considering that this would discredit their movement. Although it has existed for more than 2000 years, veganism must still fight today against the forgetting of its history: in this, this anthology has an undeniable usefulness.

However, it seems to us that by focusing on the writings of an often distant past, the anthology does not allow us to fully understand the issues of current animalism. Only the last two parts briefly address questions of intersectionality of the struggle, which are major for the movement today. Renan Larue has chosen to present a non-partisan veganism, engaged in all causes (feminism, ecology, fight against ableism) and in none: he speaks moreover of veganism and not of animalism, which extends his subject well beyond , and sometimes far away, animal questions. Indeed, many texts in this anthology do not concern so much the well-being of animals as that of men: one can be vegan for religious or health reasons without wanting to protect non-humans. The anthropologist Arouna P. Oudraogo clearly shows that vegetarianism present in working-class environments in the North of England at the beginning of the XIXe century did not concern itself with animals but relied solely on hygiene and the idea, stemming from Behemianism, that God was in every living being and that it was sin to eat animal flesh. The bosses who seized on this doctrine and promulgated it among the working class were no more animalistic: vegetarianism simply appeared as a new tool for controlling the worker's body. Creating an anthology of veganism and not animalism therefore depoliticizes the subject. Indeed, this is necessarily a struggle against domination, here speciesist domination, that is to say of one species over others. Perhaps in this regard the proposal of Romo Bondon and Elias Boisjean in their anthology Animal causes, social struggles, is more convincing: it gives a view, certainly more restricted, of what current veganism is and could be, while Larue's work above all gives thought to the plurality of what the movement has been until our days. Animalism probably needs these two types of work to create a history and reinvent itself today.

Beyond the animal question

It should still be noted that, in the last two parts, Renan Larue presents interesting ideas on the links between veganism and liberation struggles which go beyond the sole animal question. Indeed, there are many reasons to become vegan, other than by ethical or health choice. Some do so out of environmental concerns, as livestock farming is an activity that emits heavy greenhouse gases, is responsible for numerous deforestations and requires the sacrifice of a large number of arable land to grow food suitable for livestock. Others see in animalism a blind spot of progressivism (p. 721), a new way to expand our compassion and combat relationships of domination. Anti-specism is thus presented by several authors as analogous to the fight against validism, racism, sexism: if these liberation movements were driven by very different dynamics, they have the common point of seeking to place beings who are on an equal footing. are not. As Claude Lvi-Strauss explains cited in the anthology, it is the categorization and then the hierarchization of life that has enabled human enterprises as violent as slavery or even colonization: as soon as the first category is created, the human, and it is decided that beings who do not belong to this category are unworthy of having rights, Pandora's box has, so to speak, been opened. This interpretation of the origin of domination deserves to be qualified, but shows how animalism remains a missing link in the thinking of researchers and activists on oppression. It is with this open reflection on the intersectionality of struggles including veganism that the anthology ends.

Opponents have their say

In another equally interesting chapter, the tenth, Renan Larue gives voice to the opponents of veganism. In this, he takes up the question of his work Vegetarianism and its enemies (2015): veganism cannot move forward with ilres. Throughout its history, it has been confronted with multiple detractors, religious figures like Saint Augustine, philosophers like Descartes, sociologists like Sbastien Mouret and Jocelyne Porcher. This chapter even ends on a political sequence, when the Greens deputy Yves Cochet attempts to establish a green mondaya vegetarian day for canteens, and that he must face solid transpartisan opposition where we find members of theUMPof theUDI and P.S.. If criticism of veganism has always existed, this part also shows that it has hardened. First denounced as a inconsistent doctrine (p. 493) and a superstitious compassion (p. 499), veganism has become in modern times a danger to human species (p. 507), as well as a war against the poor and rural people.

In the 2010s, this moral panic reached an even greater degree, with the publication of various books against animalists and columns such as the one transcribed by Larue and published in Liberation in 2018: Vegans have it all wrong (p. 535). It should be noted here that this anti-animalist movement was largely renewed in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s in reaction to the emergence of animal liberation, and through the rhetoric of groups such as Putting People First : perhaps this chapter would have deserved a shift from France in order to better understand the sources of this opposition. It is in fact not so much the very hypothetical growth in the number of vegetarians and vegans in the countries of Europe and North America as the construction of groups setting themselves more radical objectives which leads to a response that is itself more radical from from opponents of veganism. Renan Larue, on the other hand, shows very well that this criticism, this nocarnism who plays Sbastien Mouret, sociologist, and Jocelyne Porcher, former breeder, zootechnician and sociologist of livestock, is constructed both against the abolition of animal exploitation and against the excesses of industrial breeding, promoting exploitation just non-humans in an idealized perspective of what our countryside would have been like before the industrial revolution.

several times, Renan Larue shows that this ideal is a dead end, and that throughout time, animal exploitation has been carried out in suffering: the industrialization of livestock farming has only made it more widespread and amplified. From the introduction, he writes as follows: If our industrial lifting operations are hell for animals, they are, it seems, only differently from the lifting operations of the past. Bucolic and charming farms do not exist, have never existed, except in the kitsch imagery of meat advertisements (p. 14).

Finally, certain parts seem useful to members of the vegan and animalist community, in that they share the same piphanies, the joys and difficulties of being vegan in a society promoting carnism. The theology of Renan Larue is therefore a tool allowing us to reveal the diversity of the presence of this alternative, to break the isolation of those who try it, and to remind a group of its history: in this, theVegan anthology is above all a work that was written for vegans themselves.