Despite having completed five previous TEDx talks, this one event in Cannes in June 2021 presented the greatest challenge I ever faced. I couldn’t simply walk on stage with my hands in my pockets.
How to address a topic that polarizes people so much and speak in front of an audience when statistically 79% of people still believe that we need animal products for survival (IFOP survey 2021), and only 2% have taken the step to stop killing them?
How to avoid lecturing people?
How to refrain from harming what others have already excelled at?
How not to do badly what others already do so well? I think of French NGO L214 which shows the reality of slaughterhouses and animal farming, I think of French naturalist Pierre Rigaud who documents the horrors of “recreational” hunting, I think of my beloved life partner, Charlotte Arnal, who works on animal rights in the French Constitution, I think of all these brilliant researchers who have written amazing books such as Zoopolis.
How can I avoid succumbing to pure rationality to justify my speech? Shouldn’t compassion and a sense of justice suffice on their own? Shouldn’t the evolution of consciousness primarily arise from a movement of the heart, an evolutionary force embedded in the individual and collective psyche?
Yes, we have plenty of rational data justifying veganism. On the sensitivity and intelligence of the beings we slaughter. On human health. On climate. We can never repeat these data enough in the face of the appalling collective obscurantism that our species shows today towards our animal brothers and sisters. But rationality does not (yet) move humans much, as we all know.
How could I give a TEDx talk with all these constraints?
I needed to refocus on my own research: the evolution of the human species. How does our species evolve? By what drivers? How will we move from Homo sapiens to Holo sapiens? I examine many things for this: language and the worldviews it produces, doxa, forms of collective intelligence, technology, science, economics, and monetary systems… All of this extends to the depths of my own psyche and body, which I have turned into a laboratory.
And then, everything becomes clear.
Our species can only evolve if it becomes the species that takes care of others.
Do not perceive this as a nice and fluffy moral stance. Evolution primarily occurs out of pure necessity for survival. Our species simply has no future if it continues to treat other beings as it does today. None. For now, it still tries to find purely technological or political solutions without questioning its diet, moreover, its worldview. This remains one of the major blind spots of ecology, which has only begun to touch on the subject. This denial will not last long, as future events will force us to move with an intensity equal to the ignorance opposing the facts. Love and respect for other living beings solves questions of climate, environment, health, and society all at once. Necessity comes become compassion, it seems.
The true miracle occurs afterward, once the sufferings of necessity have passed, when evolution transforms itself into an unbridled artist who gives birth to the most beautiful and whimsical forms of life and consciousness.
This really make me ecstatic.
Sources used in the TEDx
The 87% greenhouse gas emission provoked by animal farming:
- on the website of the author (Sailesh Rao), which will give you many links toward other sources and publications
- In the peer-reviewed Journal of Ecological Society, page 155
79% of French people believe we still need to eat animals: IFOP survey 2021 (French)
I bet you here that very soon, humanity, our species will go vegan.
But let’s start at the beginning…
What does that mean, exactly, veganism?
Many of you may see in it a diet.
Indeed, but it goes a lot much further than that.
One could describe veganism as an ethic.
An ethic in which we estimate to find no valid reason to exploit or kill living and sensitive beings if we don’t need to.
If we don’t need to.
And do we need to do it?
I imagine that many of you, you like animals.
Maybe finally most of us have already started this evolutionary path towards veganism.
So I often hear it said: “yes, in the vegan movements,
a human = a cow = a fish”.
However, we consider this as equal consideration, to give in fact the right to live
to animals, like Human Rights guarantee the right to live to human beings.
So concretely, a vegan person doesn’t eat animals nor what they produce, milk, eggs, honey… no longer dresses in wool or leather, opposes to recreational hunting, looks for alternatives to animal experimentation, also opposes corrida and all forms of abuse.
So what if I spoke to you of a truly vegan world beyond the clichés that we often hear?
Let’s go into that world.
In that world, we gave back ecosystems and wildlife 25% of areas formerly cultivated.
And if we add pastures, extensive farming areas, then, we gave back to nature 80% of the spaces we operated
The forests grow back, wild animals recirculate, we may come across some more and more often…
They don’t run away from us, they have no reason to.
Repopulation expands in the oceans, fish, corals, plankton… and regain their normal acidity levels.
The planet lives again.
In your opinion, what percentage of the world agricultural production goes on our plates?
Yes, 53% of the world agricultural production doesn’t go for us humans, but for animals that humans will put on their plate.
10% go for industry and 16% go to waste.
The IPCC reminds us that for 1 kilo of animal product on our plate, it took 38 kilos of plant matter to feed the said animal.
Dry plant matter, on top of that. We removed water from the calculus.
Not good eh, as a performance, all of that…
In that world, not only the oceans, forests, grow back. Let’s also talk about what we hear from the American Dietetic Association, the biggest, 100,000 members worldwide.
And who already tells us, as early as 2009, that a plant-based diet proves itself good for the health, at all stages of life,
including for children, pregnant women, and top athletes.
Novak Djokovic will certainly not tell you otherwise, tennis world champion with a plant-based diet.
Neither does Venus Williams.
And one of the strongest men in the world, Patrik Baboumian, who reminds us that the strongest animals -gorillas, elephants, buffaloes- all eat plants.
Something, maybe, even more essential: in that world, we also have changed, reversed,
Then how? Well just because of two facts: the first, we stopped the massive production of methane, 25 times more toxic, powerful,
than CO2. 25 times more, and we stopped!
In 2019, I had the opportunity to take part in what we call a peer-review, which had to check a scientific publication aimed to calculate what percentage of greenhouse gases come from farming.
A substantive work done by researcher Sailesh Rao, Indo-American, in the prestigious Journal of Ecological Science.
Sailesh wondered, actually questioned the figures produced by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, which stipulates that 14.5% of greenhouse gases come from livestock.
That makes it a lot already…
The IPCC, States, journalists, took this figure as gospel truth.
So we had to start all over again, recalculate everything, without bias, without hidden financial stakes, and here I let you guess what percentage of greenhouse gases he found.
Twice more? Three times more?
Six times more.
87% of greenhouse gases, today, come from livestock.
Somehow that made me optimistic.
We just have to start loving and taking care of animals to save our own species.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend, one of those usual conversations about veganism, and like so many people, she knows very well that we don’t need to eat animals.
She knows very well the suffering in it.
Like 21% of French people, she knows we don’t need to put them on our plate.
She concedes herself that she no longer has any rational reason to consume animal products.
So I asked her:
– So, why don’t you change? What holds you back?
– Well, I feel afraid.
– What do you fear?
– Well, I feel scared to put the finger in the gear, I feel scared of the person that I could become if I push the analysis to the end, to no longer enjoy going to the restaurant, barbecuing with my friends, I feel scared of how it will turn out with my children, I feel afraid of how things will change at work,
how will people look at me, I feel scared that I don’t know how to cook!
Maybe you too feel this same discomfort, maybe right now, as I tell you…
Sociologists and social scientist specialists have a name for it.
They call it the “meat paradox”.
The meat paradox.
It happens exactly when two cognitive spaces in us confront each other, clash.
Two opposing logics.
One says: “I love animals, I don’t want to hurt them.”
And the other says: “I kill them; I eat them.”
Many try to solve this inner conflict by saying “you can eat animals and not make them suffer”.
A message widely relayed by animal agriculture lobbies.
They probably shoot there their last bullet.
Let’s face it: take care of animals? OK.
It means that we would put outdoors 70 billion animals that we kill every year, most of them come from concentration camp hells in which we keep them?
70 billion? Impossible.
So you will eat meat or cheese from time to time, it will become costly, it won’t solve at all the issue of global warming, and even less those of animal suffering.
Can this really really pay off?
So, if you find yourself in this conversation that I had with my friend or in this meat paradox like so many people, you have nothing to fear.
It makes it just enough already to confront what I have just told you.
Make up your own mind, look at scientific publications, watch the many documentaries that exist on the internet, and if you consider that animals have the right to live like us, and you use your reason, your rationality with courage, because it takes courage, well, your path towards a vegan humanity will have begun, without a doubt.
What would a world look like going vegan, out of desire, once past the phantasmal ocean of fears?
You see, veganism, beyond its rational evidence and the horrors it rejects needs to build a creative and desirable vision, like I try to do.
Take time with yourself, take care of yourself, do not judge yourself, do not hurt yourself, do not become a tyrant with yourself or with others.
Listen to this inner movement, this evolutionary movement, that little voice that knows.
You will find there the greatest of adventures, the evolution of yourself.