David Olivier
A man with grey hair and glasses, wearing a teal shirt, sitting and looking to the side with a relaxed posture.
Olivier in 2012
Born (1956-03-11) 11 March 1956 (age 68)
London, England
Occupation(s)Activist, writer, philosopher
Years active1985–present
Known forAntispeciesist activism
Agnese Pignataro
(m. 2008)

David Olivier Whittier (born David Olivier; 11 March 1956) is an Anglo-French antispeciesist activist, writer and philosopher. He is the founder of the French journal Cahiers antispécistes ("Antispeciesist Notebooks"), the annual event Veggie Pride, and the annual meeting Les Estivales de la question animale ("The Summers of the Animal Question"). Olivier coined the term "veggiephobia" and has authored numerous articles and delivered many conferences. An advocate of utilitarian and antinaturalist ethics, he identifies politically as a progressive.

Born in London to a French-teaching father and an American painter mother, Olivier spent his early years in London before moving to France in 1967. His activism began in his adolescence, focusing initially on ecology, anarchism, anti-sexism, and anti-racism. He later turned his attention to animal rights in the mid-1980s. Olivier studied physics at the École Normale Supérieure de Saint-Cloud and the University of Lyon 1. Professionally, he worked as a computer programmer at the University of Lyon until his retirement in 2018.

Olivier is considered a founding figure of the French antispeciesist movement. He introduced Peter Singer's works to French activists and significantly influenced the formation of the animal rights organisation L214. His activism led to the creation of Veggie Pride and the annual Les Estivales de la question animale meetings, contributing to the animal rights discourse in France and beyond. A staunch opponent of speciesism, Olivier asserts that ethical considerations should extend to all sentient beings, advocating for a world with reduced wild animal suffering and rejecting traditional environmentalism.

Early life

Olivier was born in London on 11 March 1956 to a French-teaching father and an American mother who was a painter. He mainly lived in London until 1967, after which he primarily lived in France.[1] From childhood, he objected to the killing of animals for consumption.[2]

In his adolescence, he was drawn to ecology, then to anarchism, devoting himself to anti-sexist and anti-racist activism. In Lyon, he was an activist for the French family planning and gay liberation movements. His focus on the importance of animal rights grew from the mid-1980s, as he moved away from anarchist and Marxist intellectual influences.[3]

Education and career

Olivier earned a baccalauréat scientifique in 1978. He pursued studies in physics at the former École Normale Supérieure de Saint-Cloud from 1976 to 1981, followed by a DEA in nuclear and particle physics at the University of Lyon 1 in 1988.[1]

From 1983 to 1984, Olivier worked as a physics teacher but did not complete the CAPES certification year. The majority of Olivier's professional career was spent as a computer programmer at the University of Lyon 3 and later at Lyon 2. Olivier has been retired since March 2018.[1]

Antispeciesist activism

Author of a leaflet initially distributed in libertarian circles of Lyonnais from 1985, Olivier is considered one of the founding figures of the French antispeciesist movement.[4][5] His meeting with Yves Bonnardel in 1986 made him aware of the existence of an active animal liberation movement in the English-speaking world. With Bonnardel, Françoise Blanchon, also present in Lyon squat circles, and two other activists, he produced the pamphlet Nous ne mangeons pas de viande pour ne pas tuer d'animaux ("We Do Not Eat Meat So We Do Not Kill Animals"). Being bilingual, Olivier was able to create some of the first translations of Peter Singer's works into French, introducing Singer to his fellow activists.[5]

The concept of focusing the fight for animal rights around the ethical concept of antispeciesism lead Olivier, soon joined by Bonnardel and Françoise Blanchon, to found the journal Cahiers antispécistes in 1989. For a long period, the journal remained the essential media supporting the antispeciesist movement in France. Oliver himself authored many of the journal's articles, in addition to creating French translations of the texts of Singer, Tom Regan, Paola Cavalieri, James Rachels, and Steve F. Sapontzis. He and the other co-founders of the journal were a decisive influence on Sébastien Arsac and Brigitte Gothière, future founders of the animal protection organisation L214.[6][7]

In October 2001, in a bid to increase recognition of the refusal to eat animals, Olivier founded the first Veggie Pride in Paris, defining in his manifesto the term "veggiephobia".[8][9] Veggie Pride was intended to bring together people expressing their pride in refusing to eat animals (vegetarians and vegans) and denouncing the discrimination they feel they suffering their social life (for example in community food) or in defence of their ideas.[5][10] The event was exported to several French, European and North American cities, and organized its 18th Parisian event in 2018.[11]

In 2002, Olivier organised the first meeting of Les Estivales de la question animal, an annual meeting of debate and reflection around the animal question.[12] This gathering of association leaders and theoreticians of the French-speaking animalist movement lead to the launch of the organisation L214,[13] the movement towards the legal abolition of meat[14] and the creation of the Animalist Party in France.[15][16] In 2004, Olivier left the editorial staff of Cahiers antispécistes after the publication of issue 23. In 2018, the publication of The Antispeciesist Revolution by Presses Universitaires de France, containing for one third a collection of Olivier's articles,[17] met with relative media success.[18][19] Renan Larue and the critic Thierry Jacquet consider the book's publication to be symbolic, doing justice to the work of the editors of Cahiers antispécistes and granting the animal question the seriousness it deserves.[18]


Olivier opposes speciesism, which he defines in these terms: "Speciesism is to species as racism is to race and sexism is to sex: a discrimination based upon species, nearly always in favour of the members of the human species, Homo sapiens."[20] He also contends that "species" do not exist and asserts that the concept is irrevocably essentialist and should be ontologically discarded in the same way that race has been for humans.[18]

A utilitarian,[21] Olivier considers that "the sole relevant criterion for taking into account the interests of a being is its being sentient and thus having interests",[20] that is to say that they have feelings.[22] For him, ethics is the science of the right answer to the question "what to do?", and therefore the consideration of the consequences of the actions envisaged from the point of view of sentient beings potentially affected. Olivier is also a hedonistic utilitarian. That is to say, he considers "it is these sensations, and they alone, which have a moral value, positive for happiness, negative for unhappiness; this value is independent of any other characteristic of the being that experiences them".[23] The just act is therefore, according to him, that which puts the world in the best possible state, that is to say, the state in which sentient beings experience the most happiness and the least unhappiness.[23]

Olivier is an antinaturalist, in that he considers nature not to exist,[24] and that it has no reason to affect the ethical decisions of humans. He also argues that the naturalisation of animals is one of the determining factors of their domination.[20] Olivier's antinaturalism is associated with his defense of interventions in favour of reducing wild animal suffering,[25] as well as his rejection of environmentalism.[26] His views have led him to be cited on numerous occasions in the works and forums of critics of antispeciesism.[25][27] Olivier defines himself as progressive, in that he considers significant progress in the state of the world to be possible but does not describe himself as a revolutionary because he does not believe that such progress can be made in a "great evening".[28]

Personal life

Olivier is an atheist.[3] In 2008,[1] Olivier married Agnese Pignataro.[3] The couple has two children, Héloïse, born in 2009, and Emil, born in 2015.[1] In June 2020, Olivier was diagnosed with autism.[29] In 2023, he legally added his mother's maiden name Whittier to his full name.[30]

Olivier lives in France, in the Isère département.[30]

Selected publications

Articles published in books

In Luc Ferry ou le rétablissement de l'ordre (tahin party ed., 2002):

In Espèces et Éthique - Darwin: une (r)évolution à venir (ed. Tahin party, 2001):

In La Révolution antispéciste (ed. PUF, 2018):


Other articles

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Olivier Whittier, David. "Biography". David Olivier Whittier. Retrieved 25 June 2024.
  2. ^ Olivier, David (October 2015). "Refounding Progressivism". Veganes Magazine (Interview). Interviewed by Martin Gibert – via David Olivier Whittier.
  3. ^ a b c "Qui je suis" [Who I Am]. david.olivier.name (in French). Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  4. ^ Dubreuil, Catherine-Marie (2009). "L'antispécisme, un mouvement de libération animale" [Antispeciesism, an Animal Liberation Movement]. Ethnologie Française (in French). 39: 117–122. doi:10.3917/ethn.091.0117 – via Cairn.info.
  5. ^ a b c Carrié, Fabien (12 April 2018). "Politicizing Activist Discontent: A Social History of "Vegephobia" in the French Animal Rights Movement". Biens Symboliques. 2.
  6. ^ Del Amo, Jean-Baptiste; Gothière, Brigitte (2017). L214: une voix pour les animaux (in French). Arthaud. p. 37. ISBN 978-2-08-139548-0. OCLC 1005974687.
  7. ^ Mestre, Damien (20 July 2018). "Brigitte Gothière, L214 : "Il faut refaire le lien entre la viande et les animaux"" [Brigitte Gothière, L214: "We must redo the link between meat and animals"]. Socialter (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Histoire et manifeste" [History and manifesto]. Veggie Pride (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  9. ^ Olivier, David (20 June 2013). "La végéphobie est partie intégrante de l'oppression des animaux" [Veggiephobia is an integral part of animal oppression]. Le Courrier (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  10. ^ "La première "Veggie Pride" a réuni entre 300 et 400 personnes à Genève" [The first "Veggie Pride" brought together between 300 and 400 people in Geneva]. Radio Télévision Suisse (in French). 18 May 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  11. ^ Arnaud, Jean-François (21 September 2018). ""La Veggie Pride de Paris est un festival familial et pacifique"" [The Veggie Pride of Paris is a family and peaceful festival]. Challenges (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Éditions précédentes" [Previous editions]. Estivales de la question animale (in French). 28 February 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Les Estivales 2007" [The Summer 2007]. Estivales de la question animale (in French). 28 February 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  14. ^ Comiti, Antoine; Reus, Estiva (1 May 2016). "Meat Abolition". Les Cahiers antispécistes. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Municipales, européennes, parlementaires, présidentielles: comment faire une place aux animaux dans la Politique?" [Municipal, European, parliamentary, presidential: how to make room for animals in politics?]. Estivales de la question animale (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Tout savoir sur le Parti Animaliste" [All About the Animalist Party]. CNews (in French). 6 December 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  17. ^ Bonnardel, Yves; Lepeltier, Thomas; Sigler, Pierre; Larue, Renan; Olivier, David (2018). La révolution antispéciste (in French). Paris: PUF. ISBN 978-2-13-079909-2. OCLC 1026490292.
  18. ^ a b c Jacquet, Thierry (6 April 2018). "L'antispécisme à la loupe" [Antispeciesism under the microscope]. Le Temps (in French). ISSN 1423-3967. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  19. ^ Latour, Bruno (1 March 2018). "Qui a la parole ? Anti- ou multi- spécistes ?" [Who's speaking ? Anti- or multispecies?]. Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Olivier, David (5 December 1992). "What Is Speciesism?". Les Cahiers antispécistes. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  21. ^ Jeangène Vilmer, Jean-Baptiste (2008). Éthique animale [Animal Ethics] (in French). Paris: Presses universitaires de France. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-2-13-056242-9. OCLC 300192967.
  22. ^ Olivier, David (1 December 2003). "The Subjective is Objective – Taking Sentiency Seriously". Les Cahiers antispécistes. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  23. ^ a b Olivier, David (7 January 1992). "En défense de l'utilitarisme" [In defense of utilitarianism]. Les Cahiers antispécistes (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  24. ^ Olivier, David. "La nature n'existe pas..." [Nature does not exist...]. david.olivier.name (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  25. ^ a b Sugy, Paul (1 November 2018). "Derrière le militantisme végan, la puissante idéologie antispéciste" [Behind vegan activism, the powerful anti-speciesist ideology]. Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  26. ^ Olivier, David (1 June 1993). "Pourquoi je ne suis pas écologiste" [Why I am not an environmentalist]. Les Cahiers antispécistes (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  27. ^ Fabry, Philippe (31 October 2018). "Antispécisme, l'hérésie cathare au temps des grands abattoirs" [Antispeciesism, the Cathar heresy at the time of the big slaughterhouses]. Causeur (in French). Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  28. ^ Olivier Whittier, David. "Refounding Progressivism". David Olivier Whitier. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  29. ^ Olivier, David (July 2017). "Asperger et moi". David Olivier (in French). Retrieved 28 April 2023.
  30. ^ a b "David Olivier Whittier". David Olivier Whittier. Retrieved 25 June 2024.