The government and the deputies promise that this is a major advance for animal welfare in France, a law was adopted this week, it prohibits wild animals in circuses or dolphinarium, and regulates the adoption of animals from company. So where are the French with their 30 million friends? A question of society to which the sociologist Jean Viard helps us to see clearly.
franceinfo: Preliminary question first to the sociologist that you are: do you have a cat, a dog, a guinea pig?
Jean Viard: I have two cats, two dogs, I had horses, I even had a sheep, chickens …
Well, you are part of the majority of French people, more than 50%, who say they own a pet. Animals are popular in France and this is partly why the government has decided to defend them, as underlined Monday, January 25, on franceinfo, the Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie:“We see that despite this awareness to fight against mistreatment of pets, we have at the same time this sad record of abandonment.”
800,000 abandoned pets in France, Julien Denormandie told us, per year. Is the Minister of Agriculture who defends animal welfare quite a symbol, Jean Viard?
Yes of course. Because basically, in addition, this pandemic clearly shows that it is a disease that has passed from animals to humans. We realize that man is only one species among species. I think that’s what’s behind it, with the fact that we have common sensitivities and sufferings, even though I don’t know how a cow sees life. So you always have to keep a certain distance. But there is an evolution of the report which is considerable. I think this is progress.
You gave the figure of 30 million friends. But basically, there are 40 million cows and pigs in this country, and sheep, and in addition, let’s say it simply, farm animals, there are 400,000 farms in France, 440,000, it is clear. that there are about half of the households that have an animal, so I would say that the political balance of power is shifting from the farm animal to the domestic animal, and that completely changes the outlook. I believe that one thing is also important, is that basically, we have progressed by killing pests. We have cleared the world of wolves, bears. First the bears, then the wolves. Look at the bugs, there are almost more of them. It is absolutely tragic. Now we cry hedgehogs.
So we realize that we have gone too far in animal domination. And the insect is an absolutely major issue. I think there is all of that and so suddenly the animal becomes a pet, much more. And then, what do our children have in their beds? These are the soft toys. Cats, rabbits, lions, monkeys. So basically the child is brought up in the company of all these little animals. Afterwards, it will be much more difficult to make him eat rabbit.
But how can we explain that humans have had pets since the dawn of time, that we have been farmers and breeders for a very long time too and that it is only today that this debate on animal welfare? emerges and is also significant?
First of all, I think the breeders respect their animals a lot. There is also a cut. You know, on a farm, cattle are raised, for example, but it is not the farmer who kills them. They go to the slaughterhouse because he has a relationship, I was going to say, sentimental, it’s a bit strong, but in any case of respect and somewhere of affection. And besides, it is generally the women farmers who kill the chickens on the farms, which brings up another question of the relationship with blood and death. But that’s an old tradition, and the animals that we had were used for something. There was the hunting dog, the guard dog, there was the dog that protected from the fox, the cat that ate mice.
We, given our lifestyles, it is very different, but it must be said that if so many French people want to have a house with a garden, since we are about 60% to have a house with a garden, it is also to have an animal. It’s much easier to have an animal in a garden house and that also explains the abandonment of people who, basically, do not realize that a dog must be walked at least twice a day. You have to go running with him because he is bored, and that’s also why there are so many abandonments, because people have an immature relationship with animals, but also because indeed , they don’t know how to live in an apartment with it.