There may be greater and less degrees of utility. Meat, for instance, may be so good as to be fit for anyone to eat, or so bad as to be fit for no one to eat. What is the exact degree of goodness which is “essential” to its exchangeable value, but not “the measure” of it? How good must the meat be, in order to possess any exchangeable value; and how bad must it be—(I wish this were a settled question in London markets)—in order to possess none?
1Concerning animals, let us remark first of all on a surprising fact. Not a week goes by without a magazine hawking some feature on the “animal condition” in which philosophers inflict their transcendental opinions upon us; not two weeks without some new work of philosophy on the same theme arriving in the bookshops and in Amazon’s hangars, in each case recommending itself as the definitive work, the one that will finally convince our contemporaries to become “vegetarian” (or vegan). All arguments, all alliances, all outlets are fair game in the service of this noble motive. Even if this alimentary goal is not necessarily apparent in the ostensible objectives of the authors, who speak more readily of animal or environmental ethics, of morals, of justice, of rights, of citizenship, and so forth, that is nevertheless where all of these discourses lead. And it may be worthwhile to lift the opaque veil that certain philosophers drape over their motives. They do not speak out of a love of animals, nor solely for the pleasure of debating, nor with the goal of carving out a niche over which they will assert intellectual property rights. They do so out of an abhorrence for meat.
2How and why has meat become so theoretically unnecessary and undesirable that—with the help of philosophers—industrialists, multinationals, scientists, and animal protection groups can claim to replace it with meat grown in vitro, agglomerates of soya in the form of chicken, or patties of grilled grasshopper? My response here, with reference to livestock farming —and thus beyond the critique of the livestock industry that I have extensively conducted elsewhere (Porcher 2011)—is that, beyond the death of the animals (which, I remind you, is the conclusion and not the goal of livestock farming), meat is the price of our collective relation to animals. It’s the price that they pay with their lives—for the animals do not want to die—and the price that we pay with our attachments. Meat is the body of a dead animal, but—unlike the cadaver—it is the work of human labor. But meat is also flesh, a term that philosophers of the animal cause employ recurrently, following Plutarch, with as much terror as delectation. Flesh is the interior body, the other side of the skin; it is that which suffers and which bleeds. Flesh, animal or human, is the putrescible, the proof of our incarnation and our finitude. Flesh is meat.  It is the indisputable evidence of our being part of nature and of the proximity between the animals and ourselves. Nature gives us the newborn and the cadaver; the “natureculture” of our relations with animals (Haraway 2003) gives us life and death, and produces meat. Meat is therefore not the object of the relation; it is the consequence of it. What domesticated animals give us is their irreducible relation to nature and the sense that it has for them. The current rejection of meat eating, which is not spontaneous but results from a new education of the popular masses by the “elites,” is based on a rejection of our bond with animals and with nature. The future of man, the “augmented man” of biotechnologists, is a man fallen from animals, a man lost in nature.
Food Production... At the Mercy of Multinationals
3From the point of view of our relation to domesticated animals and the place of animals in our societies, we find ourselves at a crucial time, at an anthropological breaking point, even. For food production is no longer (and perhaps will never again be) in the hands of peasants and farmers, whether small or large, but has passed en masse into the hands of investors. As far as agriculture is concerned, this new ownership is realized through a massive injection of capital into the purchasing of land by multinationals, through pension funds, and through the development of corporate agriculture. 
4At the same time, animal products have arrived at the terminus of their industrial logic. After having swallowed up livestock farming and transformed the relation between labor and animal into a process of the industrial production of animal matter, livestock production has also changed hands, and companies will soon be in a position, thanks to biotechnologies and massive contributions of capital, to produce animal matter without animals (Porcher 2010). In vitro meat production represents a potentially huge market, which is why the Bill Gates Foundation, Google, Cargill, and probably McDonalds and KFC—as well as PETA, the association for the protection of animals —are investing millions of dollars in this and other projects for the production of alternatives to livestock products. At the beginning of August 2013, the Dutch researcher Mark Post for the first time served up (in a London setting that was no doubt apt for the event) the first in vitro hamburger, predicting its appearance in supermarkets within a decade. Among the products proposed by Beyond Meat, a company linked to the Bill Gates Foundation, is a product that resembles chicken but is guaranteed chicken free. It is made, essentially, of water, soya, and flavoring powder. 
5Investors also have dairy products in their sights. Thus the company Cargill has concocted a milk-free cheese, LygommeTM ACH Optimum, designed for fast-food chains—pizzas in particular—for the industrial manufacture of ready meals, and for vegan consumers. LygommeTM ACH Optimum was nominated for the Food Ingredients Excellence Awards 2009, in the category “Dairy Innovation of the Year.” It will be noted that all of these alternatives to meat and animal products conserve the appearance and the name of the original products... but that they are patented.
6While waiting for in vitro meat, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, having greatly fuelled criticism of livestock (Livestock’s Long Shadow 2006), today promotes the production and consumption of insects to nourish the world of tomorrow, in the countries of the South and North alike.  Companies in both France and China have launched production of insect foodstuffs designed to feed animals and humans. Although the term employed by the FAO is “livestock,” it is really a matter of industrially producing animal matter from insects, and of doing this through companies, not farmers.
(Re)educating the Popular Masses
7As we can observe, the conditions of agrifood production and consumption follow and accentuate the industrial and capitalist process unleashed in the nineteenth century. This mutation of production, in order to be fully implanted, must be accompanied by a mutation of consumption. Companies must convince consumers, on the one hand, that food production is safer in their hands than in those of farmers, and on the other, that the new foodstuffs offered to them and the modes of production that go with them are good, and indeed better than those that preceded them. Communication about the new food products is carried out by the companies themselves, by scientists, and by animal rights organizations. Three types of arguments are mostly used: the safeguarding of “our planet,” the protection of animals, and the protection of consumer health.
8The report Livestock’s Long Shadow broadly argues against livestock production (against animal products, in fact; but the two terms are used interchangeably in the report), accusing livestock of being an essential cause of the degradation of the environment. It claims that livestock production contributes to the greenhouse effect, to the reduction of biodiversity, to water pollution, and so forth. Films (well-financed ones) on the dangers facing the planet, such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth or Yann-Arthus Bertrand’s Home, aim to place responsibility for the problems and for the necessary changes upon individuals. The same goes for the defenders of animals: it is consumers who must change their behaviors and, for the good of animals, give up animal products. The health of consumers is an additional argument that is supposed to carry conviction. The list of the dangers to health posed by “meat” is long indeed, and no distinction is made between the effects of the consumption of the animal products that come from industrial systems and those that are the product of farming. We are simply ordered to consume less meat—that is, any meat whatsoever. 
9Bill Gates, PETA, and Cargill are convinced: we must educate consumers—in particular the lower classes. For they are the ones who eat the animal products that are the focus of marketing activity. Reading the arguments of these prescriptive advocates, it is possible to understand just how much the process of the transformation of agriculture, from the nineteenth century to the present day, has continued along the same lines, and just how closely this transformation is linked to class relations (Porcher 2013; Julien, 2013). In the nineteenth century, the bourgeois would be offended by the behavior of a carter who beat his horse, but had no problem with horses and children going down mines. The Grammont law (1850), which emphasized the visibility of violence against animals, thus protected some animals and disregarded others. The credo of animal protection is education of the masses, yesterday as today; and it is in the name of morals and ethics that companies, biologists, and philosophers forge ahead with this education. Livestock is a calamity according to the FAO; and meat is a criminal product according to animal rights campaigners, who call for an “agriculture without livestock.” Which is why in vitro meat seems like a moral product. As PETA assures us: “In vitro meat provides a way for people to be able to eat ethically.” Bill Gates, Google, and PETA, helped along by some surprisingly consensual philosophers, all agree, like the bourgeois of the nineteenth century, that the little people should be given some moral lessons. Meat became the mainstay of lower-class eating with the development of the industrialization of livestock production. Faced with peasants and workers, who mostly ate soup rather than meat, the industrialists said to one: produce without limits  and to the other: eat meat, drink milk! Today, there is a different beneficiary. It is the investors who say: be vegan, eat soya, insects, in vitro meat! It’s good for the planet, good for animals, and good for you!
10Veganism is indeed strongly encouraged by the multinationals and by the stars of various businesses, for it is in this movement that are found abolitionists with the greatest conviction, and who are therefore the most open to “apolitical” alliances. Paradoxically, for people who claim to love animals, veganism defends a mode of life that rejects all contact with the animal world (no foodstuffs from animals, no leather, no fur, and so forth). Logically, vegans should also go without pet dogs and cats—which is not the case.  One of the major problems for this movement is, on one hand, how to convince, and on the other, how to sustainedly modify behaviors. For there is a high “turnover” of militant vegans. As L.214 states: 
In order to get their message through, is it more effective for militants of the animal cause to use shocking images showing animal suffering, or endearing images of happy animals? What simple techniques would prompt people to think again about giving, or becoming more charitable toward helping animals? What messages have proved the most effective in persuading people to turn toward vegetarian eating?
12The link between consumers becoming vegan and the happiness of animals is never made. Nothing is said about what veganism will change concretely for animals. All of the PR of these associations rests upon compassion, and solely upon compassion, engendered by discourse and by images of the slaughter of animals. Compassion allows them to avoid political analysis and the emergence of complex critical points of view.
13Internally, and for the more enlightened public, abolitionists do try to conceptualize their positions and those of their adversaries. Hence Melanie Joy’s (2009) notion of “carnism,”  which seeks to transform a biological state and a set of cultural practices—being an omnivore and thus also a carnivore—into a specifically human ideology detached from nature and, above all, detached from any sense of our bonds with domesticated animals and from any understanding of the role that death plays in these bonds.
14So as to ensure there is truly no alternative—that it is veganism or nothing—the abolitionists also have nonindustrial systems of production in their sights—particularly in the United States, where movements in favor of small farms and local production are emerging. A writer such as the historian James McWilliams plays this critical role in insisting upon the environmental problems posed by small farms and on the ethical questions which, so he claims, are of the same nature regardless of whether it is a matter of small or large farms (McWilliams 2009). Veganism is therefore the only possible solution.  QED. Opposing arguments for the defense of livestock farming put forward by these small farms are charged with romanticism. Romanticism is without doubt a serious fault from the point of view of philosophers, and the arguments are thus invalidated with no further discussion, even when this “romanticism” refers to a relation to the world and to life that is really lived and shared. This accusation of romanticism refers above all to the place of nature, and to sentiments and sensibilities in the relation to animals. Peter Singer (1990) set the tone. It is not for the sake of a love of animals that he defends them; it is for the sake of a concern for justice. The accusation of romanticism condemns the love of animals, of nature, of the beauty of life itself—that is to say, it condemns any happiness that farming brings to humans and to animals.
15Persuasion is thus absolutely not left to chance. Large companies, along with scientists and animal protection associations, put in place strategies to convince consumers, and also politicians. Infiltrating political parties and associations (as in France), creating from scratch a new political party that supposedly represents the interests of animals (as in Holland or in Portugal), carrying out provocative media activism (as in the United States): anything can and will be done.
16This moral education of consumers rests upon positions of authority (whence the recourse to philosophers and, more broadly, to academics: historians, law specialists, and so forth) and upon a great discretion as to the consequences of these choices that are supposedly “in favor of animals and the planet.” The most serious consequence is the loss of countries’ and citizens’ sovereignty over their food supply. If all of our foodstuffs pass through the hands of investors, then they become entirely the masters of our lives. Alongside this mass food for the popular masses we will see quality food and food production for the rich. This is already the case with certain products: delicatessen meats or beef, for example. Thus we arrive at the paradox that livestock farming, in all its simplicity and its necessity in relation to animals and to nature, becomes rare and a luxury product.
17For what is profoundly transformed through this evolution is the relation to time and, along with it, the relation to nature. To reject animals as a foodstuff is, in the short term, to reject domesticated animals from our societies and to break with our human identity, which has been constructed alongside animals in a constant relation to nature.
The Animal, Lesson of Nature
18“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,” wrote Whitman.  As a livestock farmer also explains: “I am there to look after the cows. I like their calm, the way that they have no worries, the way they live their life, their endurance. I would have liked to have lived like they live. But that’s not possible.” The great majority of livestock farmers whom I have met believe, against constructivist theories of nature, that nature does exist. But for all that, there is no “great divide” (Latour 1993) between ourselves and animals, since both of us are similarly of nature. I would add that, thanks to labor (Porcher 2010 and 2013), nature can exist in accord with the “natureculture” of our relations with animals. Livestock farming is the best of schools to help us understand this position, for animals are of and in nature, even after centuries of phenotypic selection and decades of genetics. It is thanks to animals that we are of and in nature ourselves; that we know that life and death exist. Nature, for livestock farmers, is an unsurpassable entity. It is perfectly formed and terribly imperfect. It is beautiful, and it is because it is beautiful that both we and our animals feel good in it. It is terrible, and it is because it is terrible that we know that we and the animals must cooperate. Nature is that which encompasses us and which we construct internally. Nature is mountains, birds, plants, and so forth, but also crevasses (into which sheep can stumble), predators (who carry off lambs), and parasites (which infest and weaken the animal). Nature is beautiful when new young are born and nestle against their mother; when the young animals play, when the scent of hay and straw melds with that of the animals: “It’s just self-evident for us. Contact with animals, with sheep, with dogs, with nature, the lambs, there it is. I’m eternally amazed by nature.”
19Thus, it moves us and the world seems good and kind. But it is terrible when the mother abandons her young and walks away, letting them die: “Nature is sink or swim;” or when she kills them by wanting to do too much: “A cow, when it had calved, lay on top of the calf; in trying to protect it she crushed it. Nature’s like that;” or when wolves attack the sheep and leave a dozen of them bleeding:
With the wolf, it’s like a personal attack. That is, the herd is the shepherd’s, it’s his reason to live, it’s what he loves. And nonstop, there is someone who comes to... destroy it. Imagine that you do a job and constantly someone’s coming to destroy what you’ve done. After a while, it’s... it’s unbearable, it’s intolerable.
21Then it seems cruel to us, absurd and pitiless. Nature exists and we can do nothing about it. Nothing for the beauty of a starry sky in the mountains; nothing against the illness that kills despite our care.
22What living with animals in nature gives us, like reading Marcus Aurelius, is amor fati, the acceptance of that which comes to pass. Because the present is what counts for animals. Not that animals do not resist nature’s injunctions, or our own, and not that they are insensitive to anger or fear—but they are capable, ultimately, of letting go and turning the page without undue drama. And as farmers we learn to do the same, while often refusing to admit it. We refuse to get used to illness and death, and yet we continue to rear animals. Because life is like that, and because, in the day to day of work, we and the animals welcome the coming day and whatever it brings, despite everything we have put in place so that it might go as we want it to. The herd distances itself from the dead animal, but us, we stay there: We curse and rage against the bad mother, the microbe, the wolf, or the ravine. We blame ourselves for having arrived so late this morning or evening, for not having seen in time, for not knowing, and so forth. And then, still lamenting, we see the herd gazing at us from afar and starting to graze again. Life goes on.
23What animals give us in nature is the measure of our power (“One can’t leave nature be”) and of our impotence (“It’s better to leave nature be”). Animals remind us that we are small and helpless: “The mountain is not for us, nature is not for us.” All the things of nature belong to the animals as much as they belong to us: the trees (even when we have planted them), the watercourses and the banks (even when we maintain them), the valleys, the prairies, the beaches (even when...).
24Nature is in the animal and it is in us. It is in the nature of the wolf to seek its prey, in the nature of ruminants to eat grass, in the nature of young to suckle their mother, in the nature of the cow to protect her calf, and so forth. And it is in our nature as farmers to be with the animals in nature, and to keep our feet on the ground: “The fact of living with them, it keeps you grounded all the time, grounded in the functioning of life, of nature.”
25Thus, there is a striking contrast between “augmented man,” the transhuman—assuredly vegan—who is born of great leaps forward in marvelous communications, and the man separated from the animal that we refuse to see coming. “Augmented” man is man always connected, always linked up, half man, half machine, functioning in networks in a largely virtual world. To surpass the constraints of nature, to increase human capacities, to construct ourselves, and to repair and to prepare certain among us for an eternal life is the objective of scientists, philosophers, industrialists, and politicians on the road to this new Eldorado (Besnier 2009).
26“Augmented” man, in the societies that are readying themselves to renounce the company of animals and to claim to surpass nature, is in fact a diminished man. A man who is not even any longer a man, considering that, since the appearance of the human being, a man has not been a man without the company of animals (Shipman 2013). Even if scientific work aims to “augment” animals as well, for example equipping guide dogs with electronic devices so as to improve their performance, “augmented” man will have no need of animals. And it is indeed in the direction of this break from the beasts that the partisans of future 2.0 are headed. Yet to live with animals, as we have seen above, is to live in nature and to know it. It is this knowledge that domesticated animals bring to us. Between “augmented man” who does not want to owe anything to anybody (except those who generate electricity, because without them, obviously, our society 2.0 will grind to a halt) and the man who lives with animals, there is the sentiment of a gift and of recognition. There is the capacity to recognize the presence of animals as a sort of wealth, to apprehend nature as an entity with which we must ceaselessly negotiate, accepting that we must transform nature and thus our own nature. We can create “a second nature” for ourselves through labor, as Marx wrote, without losing sight of the permanence of original nature. We can give a second nature to animals through the domestication process (Buytendijk 1965) and above all, equally, thanks to labor, without separating animals from their natural world.
27Just like in vitro meat, “augmented” man will not have to die. And he will not be able to live. Animals do not wish to die, but they accept that life only lives through death. And this is what we learn thanks to them. It is thanks to animals that we can still know, when society 2.0 claims the contrary, that nature exists and that life and death are two sides of the same coin. Farmers make comments such as: “I was born surrounded by animals;” “I have always lived in the midst of animals;” “You live with animals and nature.” To be in the midst of, to be with. To be with its body, its senses, and its sentiments in the midst of beasts, in a field, under the sky. To feel its weight and the inscription of its boots on the ground, to feel the breath of the animal that passes and rubs against you, turning to walk on heavy or light legs near to you... To live, as nothing in the midst of an all. This is how the beasts exist, and this is how we exist with them.
John Ruskin, “Unto This Last,” in Unto This Last and Other Writings (London: Penguin Classics, 1986), 207. Ruskin is responding here to David Ricardo’s assertion: “Utility is not the measure of exchangeable value, though it is absolutely essential to it.”
Livestock farming is the historical work relation that we have with domestic animals. It is founded on a relational rationality (living together), which is articulated with the economic rationality of work. In livestock farming, the bond has priority over property. Thus I do not refer here to animal products (pork, poultry, rabbit, milk production, and so forth) or to the production of animal matter by the meat industry, but the actual production of farmed meat.
Even if, as Noëlie Vialles (1998) emphasizes, all flesh is not meat.
See Purseigle and Hervieu (2009), Salvagnac and Legagneux (2012), Fouilleux and Goulet (2012), and Neveu (2012).
In vitro “meat” is produced from cow, chicken, or pig cells. It can just as well be made starting from human cells. Or, how fear of cannibalism (the animal as our “neighbor”) risks leading to cannibalism!
The American association PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) offered a million dollars in July 2012 to any researcher who could develop a procedure for the production of chicken meat in vitro. No one having met the challenge by the date stated, the offer was pushed back to March 2014.
See Arnold van Huis et al., Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security (Rome: FAO, 2013), www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf. See also, on animal foodstuffs, the homepage of Ynsect, www.ynsect.com. “Our mission is to design, build and operate industrial facilities called insect biorefineries. We aim to bring the potential of insect products and services to a wide range of industries. The first generation of our biorefineries creates high value products for animal feed, especially for aquaculture.” On human foodstuffs, see the homepage of Micronutris, http://micronutris.com/index.html.
As René Dumont wrote in 1946, thanks to the producer organizations, “peasants may demand an extension of industrial production permitting the distribution of modern means of work and of the greatest comfort. As a counterpart, they would furnish an abundance of foodstuffs, which would no longer compromise their remuneration; quite the contrary, in an economy of stable prices.” René Dumont, Le problème agricole français. Esquisse d’un plan d’orientation et d’équipement (Paris: Les Éditions Nouvelles, 1946), 369, italics in the original.
One of the interesting things about in vitro meat for vegans is that it would allow them to feed their dogs and cats.
In reference to Nick Cooney’s talk, which the association organized in Paris for “people involved in the animal cause.” See the website of L.214, www.1214.cam/conference-nick-cooney. Other talks have been promoted in France. Nick Cooney is the author of Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us about Spreading Social Change (New York: Lantern Books, 2011). As he writes: “Change of Heart aims to be a psychology primer for militants, a roadmap of the way in which people’s minds work, and what we must do to convince them to live with more compassion” (“Conférence de Nick Cooney,” website of Mille Bâbords, http://millebabords.org/spip.php?article24188).
“Carnism is the belief system, or ideology, that allows us to selectively choose which animals become our meat, and it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms” (“Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows,” website of CAAN, www.carnism.org/2012-05-08-16-39-52/2012-05-08-16-51-25).
It should be noted that McWilliams, like Nick Cooney, is active—no doubt profitably—as a public speaker, sharing his knowledge in colloquia and public meetings, and also at schools and universities.
Whitman, Song of Myself, section 32.