Corin Peluchon (Barbezier-Saint-Hilaire, 1967) is a philosopher, bioethicist and animal rights activist. In 2018, he published The Animalist Manifesto, in which he argued that animal rights should be taken to Parliament once and for all. In her latest book published in France, Les Lumières à l’âge du vivant (Saille, Enlightenment in the Age of Life), she explains that the world is divided between those who live in domination (labor exploitation, gender-based violence, macro farms…) and defenders of conscience (animalists, feminists, pro-coexistence…) who stand up for what he calls “the light”. His intention is to accompany the latter, structuring his thought with his work, developing an “anthropological revolution”. In Spain, he had just published the book “Let’s restore the world.” People, Animals, Nature (Ned Ediciones, 2022, translated by Sion Serra), a collection of texts on animalism, ethics and old age. We spoke at the Institut Française, where this Tuesday he had a debate with paleontologist Juan Luis Arzuaga. Lives in Hamburg (Germany), where he left in order to achieve alliances with researchers. He failed, but he doesn’t throw in the towel. Her beautiful dress figures prominently in conversations.
QUESTION.One of the topics he touches on in his latest book, published in Spain, is vulnerability. How does this define us?
RESPONSE. Vulnerability, from the Latin vulnus, a wound, is the fragility of a living being: old age, mortality, fatigue… We are fragile and need care, help from others. But for me, vulnerability is also strength: it is the ability to feel responsible for others so that they reach us. Only the vulnerable self can be held responsible. This is what we share with animals. Being aware of our vulnerability is the key to being open to others, including animals. This is what pushes us to realize our responsibility towards other beings. It has an important function: it forces us to change the way we think about ourselves.
P.The war in Ukraine that we are witnessing, how is it seen through the lens of vulnerability?
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R.Our time is the time of domination both over the nature of others and over our own. The suppression of our vulnerability is domination, and this turns everything into a war that is being imposed in all areas. The war in Ukraine is a tragic mirror of imaginary domination, which also takes other forms: financial capitalism, exploitation of nature, exploitation of animals, general competition. As the French socialist Jean Jaures said, when a person exploits other people, even if it happens in peacetime, this is war. War is always evil: deaths, refugees, wounded, this is a great misfortune, but our world is already at war, even in peacetime. The biggest challenge today is to develop relationships with others, with nature, at work, with animals, that are not dominance relationships, which I call “respectful.”
P.Explain what this “consideration” consists of?
R.In recognizing the value of each being and in conveying the common world. The key to consider is vulnerability. Thanks to the latter, we can change the development model. But in order to change, you must be at war with yourself and be able to eradicate the principle of domination that has colonized us. To fight this war, we must come to terms with our own vulnerability, and then we will see more clearly that we are all equal, as well as the fragility of existence and its beauty. Right now there is a war between dominance and respect. On the one hand, we have an extractivist, productive model, macrofarms, unbridled competition, domestic violence. And on the other hand, we have concern for animals, nature, the desire for coexistence… We must admit that in the coming years we are in for very violent clashes.
P.Do you think these frictions will end in war? What will be dead?
R.Certainly. Look at Le Pen with 42% of the vote. We know what policy you want. We have five years to do something about it.
P.And how do we do it?
R. In order to win, we must accompany this background movement that eliminates our earthly, vulnerable and mortal state, which gives meaning to our existence. If we stop reducing ecology to combating climate change and consider its existential significance as it promotes cohabitation with other beings, we can see its healing power. This is the opposite of dominance.
P.How do you live with this confidence?
R.With hope. It’s not an optimistic hope, it’s something that coexists with anguish. Hope is the overcoming of despair. And it is also the expectation of something to come, the harbingers of which I see. Although I see the moral emptiness of people who are seduced by identity politics, nationalism. And this is happening because of technocratic governments. We need attention to infiltrate society. But politicians don’t listen to us. They only pay attention to the polls… We must not abandon the thirst for the meaning of religion or the ideologues of the extreme right or left who use this vacuum to promote nostalgic ideals when we oppose supposed enemies. I am writing a book about hope for young people who are desperate because of war and climate change. It’s about how to transform those negative emotions into positive ones. I know what I’m talking about: in my youth I had a severe depression that lasted a long time.
P.What did he learn? How are you doing?
R.We need moments of happiness. I love beauty, dresses: I allow myself this pleasure. I surround myself with beautiful things, do not tolerate violence. I have a cat. Strategies are needed to maintain fortitude.
P.May I ask who you voted for in the last election?
R. to Macron. He seems very smart to me, he handled the pandemic very well. But he does not listen to intellectuals, and he lacks sympathy. Its ecological state is lousy.
P.What do you think of researcher Jocelyn Porcher’s view that it’s okay to love cows and kill them to sell them? Porcher defends small farms and opposes large farms.
R.Literally this fall, we released a book with correspondence between them. Despite his rejection by animalists like me, we understood each other very well. It doesn’t just assume that we are 8 billion people and that if we all ate meat three times a week, macro farms four times the size of today’s would prevail. I am in favor of subsidizing small farmers, in politics you need to make concessions. We need common goals and for Macron and Europe to listen to us.
P.Isn’t this a contradiction?
R.When you move from ethics to politics, you cannot be pure. You must be pluralists.
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