In the hours that followed the criminally insane massacre conducted by terrorists in the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the Je Suis Charlie image was uploaded on the AnimalWelfareAndTrade Twitter and Facebook pages.


AnimalWelfareAndTrade is Charlie too

AnimalWelfareAndTrade is Charlie too

I think that this gesture deserves an explanation, in the light of the animal welfare focus of this website and its communication channels.


It is probably worth saying immediately that I don’t agree with everything Charlie Hebdo publishes. Nobody does, I suppose – not even those who work for that magazine. I don’t even find everything they publish funny, and I believe that some of their cartoons are plainly and unnecessarily offensive.


As a Christian, I regard cartoons that crudely attack certain basic doctrines of faith (rather than the corruption of particular clergy) as violent and destined to fail in their likely objective of criticising those who have turned religion into big business or a deadly weapon. Some cynical cardinals or other clerics would not care (their behaviour makes everyone wonder what they believe in, if anything), which means that only genuine believers would be offended. Why do it, then? The genuine believers are not the neurotics fuelled by hatred who want to marginalise gays, expel immigrants and pile up wealth, but those who – because of their faith – open their doors to the poor, to the oppressed, and to those who are persecuted by the religious haters.


Making fun of Jesus on the cross seems to me as crass as mocking someone killed in an electric chair or someone murdered by terrorists in whose mouth the word of God becomes assassins’ blasphemy. It’s not funny, it’s vulgar.


Having said all that, the fact that I find someone’s ideas silly or offensive certainly doesn’t mean that they should not be allowed to express them. Freedom of expression helps religious freedom… and animal welfare too!


If I am strong in my faith, I should have the cultural and spiritual tools to respond to criticism or ridicule. If I don’t, maybe my faith is empty or false, or something that gives me a ready-made identity in a group I want to belong to. If the anger triggered by a joke is stronger than my respect for someone’s life, then my faith is no more scripturally founded than my support for a football club or my fondness for a Hollywood star.


The same applies to animal welfare.


If I am convinced of my argument, I can’t fear a debate with an animal abuser of any kind, whether it is a bullfighter or a force-feeder of ducks for foie gras production. Hopefully, dialogue will bring us closer, and we can walk together to arrive at a broader idea of justice. Or it might not happen. Nevertheless, dialogue is the only sensible choice in order to generate progress. Besides, it would be boring to speak only to those who agree with my ideas, and this would cause a gradual decrease in my mental agility.


Freedom of speech means freedom to challenge the status quo too. Silence – as the old Act Up slogan says – equals death.


Too many people in the scientific world are scared of saying openly that animal experiments should be rejected not only for ethical reasons, but because they undermine true scientific progress. They fear that they could lose their job or status if they did so.


In recent years, some Spanish politicians (special praise must be given to those in Catalonia) have started to speak out against bullfighting. Many others think that they could lose their seats in rural constituencies if they did so.


How many French politicians are willing to openly oppose the force-feeding of geese and ducks for foie gras production? They too consider their election prospects more important than demanding justice for abused animals.


In this context, I now feel the urge to balance my dislike of some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons with a celebration of some of the ones I have loved.


I want to remember particularly some of the many they have regularly published in defence of all animals, and I want to express my sincere thanks to Charb, Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski for their great cartoons against bullfighting, animal experiments, hunting, force-feeding, and other forms of animal abuse.


The anti-bullfighting organisation CRAC have published a selection of those cartoons on their home page.


Democracy, along with the ability to freely express opinions – all opinions – has long proved to be the best vehicle to start debates both on the rights of humans and of other animals, and to achieve progress for all, at the ethical and legislative level.


That’s why today AnimalWelfareAndTrade is Charlie too. The freedom of speech of us all has been attacked in the Charlie Hebdo rooms.


This website and the work behind it aim to oppose all violence, whether against animals of other species or against humans like us. AWAT works together with people of all creeds and backgrounds who accept the great challenge of nonviolence and determined dialogue, in order to make the world we have been given a better one, rather than soaking it in blood.


Let’s be different, let’s disagree, let’s talk. And let’s laugh. Even at ourselves.



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