Animal rights activists march in Paris demanding closure of slaughterhouses
“Organic or not, meat equals murder!” “Tomorrow, everyone a vegan, yes we can!” These were just some of the slogans shouted this Saturday during a protest calling for an end to the killing of animals for food. Several hundred people, some of whom had come by coach from Lyon and Rennes in France and Brussels in Belgium, marched through southern Paris in a friendly atmosphere. Many of them were dressed in red and held placards calling for the closure of abattoirs, sometimes with disturbing photos of animals being slaughtered. Some belonged to the Animal Liberation Front.
Despite (or perhaps because of) France not exactly being a beacon when it comes to animal rights, the movement behind this march was actually set up here last year. Similar marches also took place this Saturday in the south-western French city of Toulouse and in the UK, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, the US, Canada, Brazil and Australia.
Before the march began, I spoke to Diana and Gitte, both in their thirties. “There is no reason we should believe ourselves superior to animals”, said Diana, who lives in Paris. “They have rights too”. Gitte, who had come by coach from Belgium, said she was disappointed at the reaction she got when she told people she was going to a protest against slaughterhouses. “They found it absurd. But they shouldn't”, she said, believing that in time, with increased awareness, the killing of animals for food would stop. “In any case, if we do nothing we won’t change anything”, Diana added.
Diana (right) and Gitte before the protest. Fermons les abattoirs ! means Close the slaughterhouses!
The protest set off from in front of the former slaughterhouses in Paris’ 15th district, which closed in 1976, and where one activist put up an official-looking plaque. “To the animals that died in the abattoirs”, it read, “so that one day the blood of animals may stop flowing”. Before setting off, one of the protest leaders gave a speech, during which he wondered aloud why the abolition of the death penalty did not apply to animals.
The protesters in action. Both young and older people turned out for the event.
During the march, the protesters booed loudly each time they passed a butcher’s shop. They also stopped several times to carry out a “die-in”. With their red clothes symbolising the blood of animals, they lay down on the street in silence and played dead while Chopin's Funeral March played over the loudspeaker. This “happening” was most effective at the intersection of two main thoroughfares lined with shoppers and passers-by, the boulevard Saint Michel and the boulevard Saint Germain. The protesters stopped traffic for several long minutes, leading to much tooting of horns by irate drivers.
One of the "die-ins", where the activists played dead for several minutes.
Some protesters brought their pet dog to the march.
The protest ended at place Saint-Michel, a busy area full of tourists and shoppers, where the activists carried out a final “die-in”. Before the group dispersed, their leader addressed them again and compared the killing of animals for food to slavery or to gender inequality, both of which were not questioned for a long time. “These killings [of animals] are not inevitable”, he concluded.
All photos © Caroline Clarkson.