The 2008 Paris Veggie Pride Parade. The poster reads: "Animals are my friends and I don't eat my friends." Photo: huguesdk under a Creative Commons license.
Living in France, I have to say it's a pretty green country. Every sizable city I've been to has good public transportation, climate change is taught in schools, a national debate is considering opting out of nuclear power, and lots of food is consumed locally.
But there's one big gap on the French sustainability resume: vegetarianism is close to non-existent, and closer to invisible. From my anecdotal experience, the idea of not eating meat at all strikes most French as equally strange as eating an enormous bucket of fried chicken. But today, the country's vegetarians are marshaling for the 11th annual Veggie Pride Parade, to make their presence known and their voices heard.The French National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA) estimates that 2% of the country's nearly 68 million people are vegetarians. More striking for me was that the report I heard on the radio about the parade needed to define vegetarianism. My explanations of veganism to French friends are met with baffled looks. After all, they live in the land of foie gras.
But the organizers of the French Veggie Pride Parade accuse their compatriots of more than ignorance or amused indifference. They level charges of "vegephobia," the desire to make vegetarians feel ashamed of their concern for animals. Veggie Pride is an international organization, whose manifesto uses some pretty strong language:
[Our aims include] To declare our pride at refusing to have animals killed for our consumption: To refuse to rob sentient beings of their sole possessions, of their very flesh, of their very lives; to refuse to take part in a concentration camp system which turns their short lives into perpetual torment; to refuse to do all of this for the mere pleasure of the palate, for the satisfaction of a habit, of a tradition: To refuse to do such things should be just plain decency.
The French Veggie Pride Parade, held in Marseille in late May and in Paris today, is meant to be a demonstration, where vegetarians express their views and protest the slaughter of animals. It starts with a march through the streets of the city, followed by a gathering with speeches, music, food and information stands.
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More on the fight for vegetarian rights:
Entire Staff of International Cosmetics Company Goes Vegan for World Vegan Day
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USDA Classifies PETA as a Terrorist Threat