Is the vegan diet “against nature”?

“A new fundamentalism? This is the shocking subtitle of Frédéric Denhez’s essay, “the Vegan Cause” (Buchet-Chastel, 224 p., 18 euros), which is released in bookstores this Thursday, October 3. Let us hasten to clarify that the question mark is above all there to look pretty. Because the least we can say is that this journalist, specializing in environmental issues (who recently delivered a very good survey on organic farming) does not carry veganism in his heart. In 2018, he had already co-signed a thunderous column in “Liberation” on this subject. And he does it again, in a more substantiated way.

Is it really convincing on more than 200 pages? The ordinary citizen, who is neither vegan nor anti-vegan and is ready to think about it calmly, will no doubt be able to draw some really enlightening passages. But it is clear that, on the whole, the demonstration is hardly convincing.

Tortuous impulses

Why ? Because Frédéric Denhez’s main argument is based on a very questionable statement: the choice not to consume any animal product of any kind (neither flesh, milk, eggs or honey) is contrary to our nature as a human mammal. ” We are omnivorous “, it is ” man’s own He writes. Thathomo sapiens or omnivorous since the dawn of time is not in doubt. It goes without saying that meat is a taste delight for most of its representatives. But from there to assert that it is a ” metabolic necessity “… Sylvie Guillem, vegan principal dancer:” Honey is also animal exploitation! “

In the name of what would we be biologically condemned to exploit and kill animals if, one day, a majority of us judged this act contrary to civilization? Many tortuous impulses have steeped in our hearts since the dawn of time (reread Sade, Hobbes or Bataille…) and which the laws formally prohibit. ” Man has always been cruel, it’s in his nature », Wrote Denhez. Yes and, precisely, he always tried to organize collective spaces, where this cruelty is more or less channeled, tamed, put to sleep.

In addition, we will not insult Denhez for taking up the “evidences” brandished at all times about what is “ natural And is not. For a long time, we know what was the “natural” place of the woman, the “natural” place of the Negro, and more recently, what a “natural” family (a father and a mother) is. All this is a matter of cultural choice and of course, it is permissible to side with the conservatives and to consider that these are harmful developments, and that it would be preferable not to change anything. But invoke the ” metabolic necessities Is never the sign of great argumentative power.

Rancid bigots

The other big assertion made by “the Vegan Cause” is the following: the anti-meat are rancid bigots, struck by a ” ordinary puritanism “, a ” hard Christianity Which would make them hate the body in general, and its pleasures in particular. This ” catastrophist enjoyment “Would be that of an era which disgusts itself and seeks its salvation in an imaginary” purity “.

Aymeric Caron: “An earthworm obviously does not have the same relationship to the world as a human”

Unfortunately, no extract of vegan text, and nothing of what Sébastien Arsac (the founder of L214, to whom Denhez has the honesty to leave the floor to speak at length) says supports this allegation. They are especially “anti” who speak, and who seem to give free rein to their fantasies than to real observations in the field: the vegans would thus have a ” sectarian character “, Would be” navelists “, Would not think” rational ” But ” emotional “, Would be” cut off from reality “, Would like” to impose oneself by morality more than by philosophy (Note that many thinkers hostile to Greta Thunberg develop the same arguments against her).

And of course, no firebrand worthy of the name can do without comparing the one criticized to the Nazis – it’s done on page 140 (fortunately, the words are quickly qualified), shortly after having said that their ” poison of relativization (Men and animals are alike) is a threat to human rights.

Long live the Neolithic?

More singularly still, Frédéric Denhez accuses them of ” to question the Neolithic », Those ten thousand years before Jesus Christ during which humans invented the esteemed practice of agriculture. Except that, as the historian Jean-Paul Demoule has noted in our columns, the Neolithic is also the period when sedentary lifestyle, religion, social inequalities and the inferiorization of women were forged! Are we sure we want to keep all the achievements of this age? Seriously?

To be completely fair, let us point out all the same that some points developed in “the Vegan Cause” deserve to be dwelled on. We note in particular the cultural importance that the author gives to agricultural landscapes, in particular to meadows and groves. His text helps us understand how much this ” patrimony “, Forged by man,” participates in our collective unconscious ”, And how unfortunate it would be if it disappeared because the cows and sheep stopped grazing there. With that, yes, we agree.

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