How can you reduce animal suffering at your scale?

Ethical consumption in favor of animal welfare is slowly developing in French society, but this trend is still too small to see real changes in the fight against animal abuse.

According to the data compiled by the L214 association, which protects animals, in 2018, 1.380 billion animals were killed for human food. For every few billion people who consume meat or fish, at least 3.8 billion animals are killed every day. In France, the proportions are equally impressive: 1.2 billion animals were slaughtered on French farms in 2018.

But animal husbandry is not the only form of animal suffering, although it is the main form of exploitation both in terms of the number of individuals involved and on a symbolic level. An animal playing on a farm, in a laboratory, in an arena or in a garden takes on different forms in our eyes, and our relationship with it changes at the same time. But what fundamentally distinguishes a domestic animal from a farm animal or a wild animal? His welfare comes first and we are ready to ensure his protection.

According to the Ifop survey, 30 million in animal welfare together with the Friends Fund, The French are still in favor of banning all animal experiments (90%, +1 point in one year), intensive farming (85%), hunting with dogs (77%) and bullfighting (77%, +2). “.

With the development of global warming and the pressure exerted by human activities on ecosystems, an increasing number of citizens are deciding to reduce or even completely stop consuming animal meat in order to reduce their carbon footprint. However, the percentage of vegetarians (no animal meat) and vegans (no products derived from animal exploitation) is still very low and does not exceed 3% of the French population according to a 2020 survey by France Agrimer.

Therefore, the French continue to defend contradictory customs. Even if they are aware of the negative impact of exploitation on animal welfare and the environment, they do not seem ready to radically change their lifestyles, as the recent and numerous debates on hunting have shown. vegetarian food, intensive farming or bullfighting.

So what’s wrong?

The end of animal abuse, still blockages?

Romain Espinosa, economics researcher and animal welfare and plant nutrition expert at the CNRS, is interested in the ins and outs of this “paradox of animal exploitation.” He mentions in the third chapter of his work How to save animals? (2021) The economics of the animal situation, published by Presses Universitaires de France, various reasons for inaction in the fight against animal suffering, despite the fact that individuals are genuinely concerned about these issues.

The first reason given by the researcher is sincere ignorance. The complexity of operating systems, the number of actors in the production chain and the lack of transparency are factors that can explain consumer inaction. Without information about the number of animals killed or the conditions in which animals are kept, it does not force anyone to consider these issues and change their lifestyle.

And for those in the know?

The most commonly researched explanation is cognitive dissonance, a social psychology theory in which an individual is torn between his or her beliefs about what to do and his or her personal values. A tension that each individual must manage and There are two strategies for them to do this: to change their actions to make them conform to their moral precepts, or to change their moral values ​​to make them conform to their actions. “, Romain Espinosa explains in his book.

These moral values ​​mentioned by the economist come directly from the social environment specific to individuals. Some environments are deeply rooted in animal exploitation through their standards and values. Due to cultural and political principles, these groups consider orders to eat less meat, ban hunting or animal shows to be a direct attack on their way of life, and respond accordingly by rejecting them altogether in favor of political movements, militant actions or new laws. reducing animal suffering.

This also creates difficulties when the individual wants to escape from the behavioral and social norms in force in the group (family, friends, etc.). Therefore, these people decide to keep themselves in their presence, preferring not to reveal their vegetarianism / veganism in order to avoid confrontations.

One may also consider that exploitation and animal welfare are common issues. When he works hard and others continue to consume unethically, he may feel cheated. He then believes that his personal consumption will only have an ironic effect on the exploitation of animals, and therefore continues to consume animal flesh because responsibility is not shared.

It can also be a matter of habit. Whether it’s Sunday chicken or charcuterie with friends at the bar, one can recognize the plight of animals now without considering it. you at the time of purchase. Consumption habits are also the result of automatisms that are sometimes difficult to suppress.

An individual may also believe that animal abuse is too far away for him to deal with. Indeed, empathy varies from one animal to another. A domestic animal is raised to a different level than farm animals because it is in the home. Without emotional bonds with animals, empathy is weakened and individuals are less likely to make efforts to alleviate their own suffering.

The last explanation raised by Romain Espinosa is troubling impure altruism”. Giving money, volunteering for an animal welfare organization or caring for animals, any action for animal protection and welfare will give an individual an excuse to consume products derived from animal exploitation.

All these above mentioned causes can fall one after the other and can be added from one person to another according to their relationship, social origin, environment and animal condition.

Reduce animal exploitation on an individual scale

But on the contrary, nothing prevents the establishment of new habits to reduce the impact of animal exploitation, even for the most resistant to change.

1 – Get information…

As seen above, one possible theory for inaction is the lack of awareness of animal abuse and suffering. Therefore, the first step is to effectively learn about exploitation and anti-speciesism (the philosophical and political movement against animal exploitation). State, local authorities and numerous animal protection associations (LPO, L214, Peta) are reaching out to raise public awareness of the impact of animal abuse on both animal suffering and ecosystems. Media like L’Amorce offer anti-specific journalistic content that allows us to delve into the issues of exploitation philosophically and politically.

2 – … to consume less,

In terms of nutrition, a gradual reduction in meat and fish consumption is possible and does not pose a problem for human health in any case. Vegetarianism may even be beneficial for certain health problems (diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer risk).

In addition to individually reducing the footprint on animal suffering, it is also a benefit to the planet. Animal husbandry (pigs, sheep, cattle, beef, fish) has a significant environmental impact. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions (CO2NO2CH4), the entire chain of animal food production and supply is currently severely altering ecosystems through deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.

3 – …to choose a better one

Reducing animal exploitation also means thinking about all the activities and mechanisms that contribute to the suffering of animals when buying goods or services. Preference should be given to consuming products where brands have committed to no longer exploiting animals or to reduce animal suffering as much as possible. Buying tickets to a theme park that doesn’t care too much about food, clothes, cosmetics or animal welfare are things to think about beforehand.

Associative and political commitment are also possible levers at the individual level. For example, the Animalist Party has been providing political support for the protection of animals (wild, farmed, domestic, etc.) in France since 2016.

3 – …and raise awareness among your loved ones.

Raising awareness among those close to you (family, friends, colleagues) is beneficial. The goal is both to make the often laborious and time-consuming research work easier for our loved ones (family, friends, colleagues) and to show them ethical alternatives (new vegetarian/vegan recipes, imitation meat consumption, responsible brands). it is easy to adopt to maintain small habits that are not too sudden changes and thus difficult to give up.

Espinosa, R. (2021). Chapter III – Why do we continue to exploit animals in such circumstances? How to save animals? (pp. 71-158). French University Press.

Oussalah, A., et al. (2020). Health outcomes associated with vegetarian diets: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Clinical Nutrition, 39(11), 3283-3307.

French and animal welfare Wave 5 (2022) – 30 million Friends Fund. FIFG.

Mauricio. (2020, December 10). Meat, milk, eggs, fish: how many animals are killed in France? L214.

Image by scott payne from Pixabay

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