Introduction to the Cahiers antispécistes

Par David Olivier Whittier

This text was published in issue #0 (September 1991) of the Cahiers antispécistes journal (originally: “Cahiers antispécistes lyonnais”) to define its project.

This number zero of the Cahiers antispécistes lyonnais exists to give you and us a concrete image of the first French periodical for the abolition of the neglect of the interests of non-human animals. We wanted to bring you, in a shortened format, elements of in-depth reflection as well as practical and current information.

Antispeciesist: opposed to speciesism. That is? If already in the title we have chosen to use a word that is not in French dictionaries, it is not to impress, but because our project is new in this country; even if the refusal to seriously consider the interests of non-human individuals is perhaps more akin to the systematically unthought than to the never thought.

On the cover, we give a definition of speciesism, one that is debatable as any definition of racism or sexism*. The following pages say a bit more about the issue. But speciesism is too close to the heart of our society for a few individuals to have any hope of getting to the bottom of it. The Cahiers will therefore aim to be multidisciplinary, and will attempt, among other things, to translate the wealth of literature, particularly from the English-speaking world, that deals with the subject.

The aim of the animal liberation movement is to put an end to what is one of the most massive sources of suffering that has ever existed. In France, to speak of meat alone, nearly a billion non-human animals are slaughtered every year for their flesh. Because their interests are subordinate to those of humans, they escape, from birth to slaughter, the imposition of continuous and intense suffering only when humans have nothing to gain. Their death itself is in the eyes of humans a mere matter of taste.

But the statistics do not tell us the number of fish who burst open in nets, suffocate or are butchered alive on the decks of ships since they are counted as tons and not as individuals. Multiple billions of them die in this way each year for the pleasure of the French alone.

Rationality is the basis of the anti-speciesist project, which is opposed to traditions and ways of thinking that are thousands of years old. It cannot be turned towards the past, during which speciesism has always been the dominant thought. And the success, albeit partial, of anti-racist thinking, and of other liberation movements of the last two centuries, also based on reason, gives us reason to believe that anti-speciesism is a project that will succeed.


* “Speciesism is to species what racism and sexism are to race and sex respectively: the desire to disregard (or to discount) the interests of some for the benefit of others, on the false basis of differences that may be real or imagined but always lack any logical link with what they are intended to justify.”