dialogue around the right to kill animals

Book. Corine Pelluchon is a philosopher specializing in ethics applied to medicine, the environment and animals; Jocelyne Porcher, a former breeder, becomes a sociologist and director of research at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae). From autumn 2021 to spring 2022, these two intellectuals were maintained, at the request of editors Sophie Nordmann and Mazarine Pingeot, a rich correspondence around a subject that will generate passions: the animal cause. Over the course of this long conversation, Corine Pelluchon and Jocelyne Porcher examine the multiple facets of a vertiginous philosophical question: do we have the right to kill animals?

Page after page, letter after letter, this reflection in two voices offers all the charms of the somewhat outdated genre of epistolary exchange – the effort of argumentation and rigor that often accompanies writing, but also the elegance of expressions of politeness, the pleasure of literary quotations and the courtesy of happy new year wishes. This delicacy does not erase disagreements, even tensions: if Corine Pelluchon, who calls herself “vegan and abolitionist”is opposed, in principle, to raising and slaughtering animals, Jocelyne Porcher defends with conviction family farms that work in a “peaceful and respectful” with animals – even if they are destined for death.

Corine Pelluchon and Jocelyne Porcher share a single certainty: both radically criticize the industrial, scientific and Taylorized model of animal production that has imposed itself in the West. “It transforms animals into machines, opposes the meaning of animal husbandry which is a relationship to the living and divests breeders of their know-how”, accuses Corine Pelluchon. It establishes a relationship “of indifference and institutionalized cruelty towards animals”, echo analysis Jocelyne Porcher. For the rest – and in particular the question of whether or not the end of breeding constitutes a “desirable horizon” –an abyss separates the two intellectuals.

“illegitimate right”

For Corine Pelluchon, the killing of a young and healthy animal is a major transgression when we can meet our nutritional needs otherwise. “It is a right that we grant ourselves over a being, and this right is illegitimate when this killing is not absolutely necessary, she writes. It is not based on the nature of things, on the fact that animals were created to pay serve us as food or resource, but on a convention and a habit, on a custom. » A tradition, she adds, which is the – unfortunate – fruit of the radical separation between nature and culture which governs, in the West, our relations with the living.

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