Activists call for closure of French slaughterhouses at Paris protest
France may be a meat-loving country, but thousands of protesters dressed in red -- to symbolise meat -- marched in Paris’s Place de la République on Saturday to demand the closure of slaughterhouses.
The rally was organised by animal rights organisation L214, two of whose members will appear in court on Monday for trespassing and filming within a slaughterhouse.
According to the organisation, there were 3,600 participants at the event.
“This is the sixth year that we’ve held this gathering and there are more people every year,” Johanne Mielcarek, a spokesperson for L214, told FRANCE 24. The name L214 comes from the French law that first describes animals as beings with feelings and emotions. The organisation has earned a name for itself for documenting cruelty within slaughterhouses.
Mielcarek said that around 40 different organisations were present on Saturday, including other animal rights groups, vendors of cruelty-free products and stands offering vegan food. There was also a virtual reality station where attendees could don a helmet and find themselves in the position of a pig in a slaughterhouse (the footage was filmed on a 3D camera by the organisation Animal Equality).
Documenting the slaughterhouse floor
For Mielcarek, the higher rates of attendance are a result of the photos and videos documenting poor conditions in French slaughterhouses that have emerged in recent years.
Bringing images of what happens within slaughterhouses to the public’s attention is part of L214’s primary mission-- whatever the cost. Sébastien Arsac, the organisation’s co-founder, and another L214 activist will appear in court on Monday for breaking into a slaughterhouse in the Parisian suburb of Houdan last December.
The night they were arrested, the two men were picking up several GoPro cameras that they had secretly installed to film pigs being rendered unconscious with CO2 gas. The shocking footage, which shows two pigs clearly in distress while being gassed, was released by L214 last week. Footage released in February from the same establishment showed an employee prodding pigs with a stun gun. L214 has also filed a complaint against the slaughterhouse for mistreatment.
In 2015, L214’s investigation into cruel practices at a slaughterhouse in the French town of Alès led to its closure. Then-Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll ordered all slaughterhouses in France to be re-inspected and also established a parliamentary investigation commission. In January 2017, the National Assembly voted to make surveillance cameras mandatory for all slaughterhouses.
“Yet -- what use are these surveillance cameras if the public isn’t allowed to see the footage?” Mielcarek asked. “Still, at least it’s a start.”
A more radical message -- for a day
While some have called L214 radical or extremist, Mielcarek says the organisation is pretty pragmatic.
“We spend most of our time working with different actors to see that animals are treated not as badly,” she said. “For example, I’m currently working with businesses to get them to stop buying factory-farmed eggs.”
The call of Saturday’s protest -- no more slaughterhouses -- was a bit more radical than usual.
“We let ourselves have this one day where we could express a more radical view,” Mielcarek said. “Because, the rest of the time, we are just working on improving the situation. But we don’t want to lose sight of the core message -- that we don’t need to eat meat and that all slaughterhouses should be closed.”
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