[Critique] “Absent Zoo” and “Anthropic Journal of Animal Causes”: A Literature Sensitive to Animals

The efforts of the animal cause appear more and more often on the side of literature. As proof, the association Educ Pop Animaliste has awarded the Maya Prize since 2019, the first animal literary prize in France. Awarded in three categories, novel, comics and children’s literature, the prize aims to “highlight works of fiction that promote the cause of animals”.

When it comes to demonstrating that animals have moral rights and that they should be treated accordingly by justice, more studies are popping up every year. Among those who have recently emerged in Quebec, let’s mention Radical animals,by Jérôme Segal (Lux, 2020), to do vegans want? by Alexia Renard and Virginie Simoneau-Gilbert (Fides, 2021) and (V) straight, under the direction of Marilou Boutet (Somme tout, 2021). But what about the literature? Would it have a role to play in opening the conscience, perhaps it would even have a head start on tests that are considered by many to be a deterrent? CEO of the Montreal SPCA and author, in particular of I eat with my head (Stanké, 2011), Élise Desaulniers believes that literature is a source of moral improvement. “It is an idea that I take from the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum,” clarifies the insatiable reader. Novels make us imagine possibilities, see things differently and develop compassion. Reading broadens our perspectives. To change mentalities, works of fiction would simply take a different path than those of theoretical works. “Unlike an essay, Desaulniers believes, I do not believe a novel can convince anyone of anything. That said, it can allow you to see and feel things in ways that have never been foreseen before, like a world without animal exploitation, for example. It seems to me fundamental to go through this. You cannot create a world without first imagining it. »

Captivity, breeding and marketing

There exists in modern French literature a real current whose works depict the fate reserved for animals by humans. The names of Camille Brunel and Jean-Baptiste Del Amo often appear (see box), but there are other writers whose novels are celebrated. Florence Aubry is interested in captive whales in black titanium (from Rouergue, 2018). Vincent Message imagines a world where people are served their own medicine Defeat of lords and possessors (Threshold, 2016). Lucie Rico gives birth to a true fable about marketing poultry in The song about the Sous Vide chicken (POL, 2020). Isabelle Sorente reveals the dark underside of an industrial pig farm with 180 days (JC Lattes, 2013).

IN The absent zoo, Joël Baqué evokes an unlikely meeting between René, a retired accountant, and Lison, a young animal activist. Published in February, the novel, the author’s sixth book published by POL editions, addresses the sensitive issue of wildlife suffering, a current far from unanimous in the anti-species movement. This is how René will find himself involved in an operation to sterilize 28 species of predators that are considered too violent. By taking a dystopian turn, even flirting with transhumanism, the truly epic adventure shows that any logic, no matter how healthy it is in the beginning, can guide the absolute lover directly towards the worst.

The power of designs

There are also comics, whether satirical or documentary, titles that deal with different aspects of the animal’s cause. Let us mention in France naughty veggie (La Plage, 2021), a fun but informative series by Rosa B., and like a beast (Rue de l’échiquier, 2020), an album in which Cédric Taling stages a fruitful clash between generations. In Quebec, Eve Marie Gingras, author of How (and why) I became vegan (Écosociété, 2020), acts as a pioneer.

With Anthropogenic journal on the cause animals, a cartoon whose story and drawing she signs, the French Anne Defreville, who is passionate about environmental issues, takes us into her daily life, sharing her questions. She translates the ideas of the specialists she meets without taking a stand, and is content to accompany their remarks with sublime illustrations. We will see through his eyes an ornithological center and a tannery of crocodile skins, we will go to CNRS and SPA, we will hear various ecological associations. This book restores a journey, a patient introspection, and reveals with rigor and sensitivity people’s conflicting attitudes towards animals.

Three recommendations from Élise Desaulniers, CEO of the Montreal SPCA

The absent zoo


Joël Baqué, POL, Paris, 2022, 192 pages.

Anthropogenic Journal of Animal Cause


Anne Defreville, Futuropolis, Paris, 2022, 152 pages

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