In Marie Huot (1846-1930) we encounter a fascinating animal rights activist who strongly sympathized with Neo-Malthusianism but left it behind in favour of a more stringent moral theory. Considering what humans do to animals and what humans do to other humans, Huot became an early and explicit antinatalist (and is labelled as such by Francis Ronsin in his book La grève des ventres, published in 1980).
As an antinatalist, she not only transcends the denatalist neo-Malthusianism of her time, but also fills the term ‘nihilism’ with new content in a purposeful way by recognizing a consistent nihilism in antinatalism. Huot is also the inventor of the epochal term ‘Grève des ventres’ (Birth Strike), which she called for at a conference as early as 1892 and which from then on offered itself to all women who did not want to offer further victims to the orgies of human destructiveness.
In the following I offer some translations from Huots pamphlet LE MAL DE VIVRE from 1909, which is available here in French language:
‘We have often been accused of being revolutionaries, because we demand a share in social rights for animals; accused of being anarchists, because we do not admit that intelligence arrogates to itself a tyrannical omnipotence towards our less gifted brothers, and accused of being troublemakers, because we want to change this natural as well as merciless order that relentlessly delivers the weak to the whims of the strong.’
‘First and foremost we are nihilists. Not these shy sectarians, who restrict themselves to religious or political questions and stop halfway through the doctrine, terrified at the idea of nothingness, but rebels saying to life: you will not go any further!’
‘Even if man only accepted this burden personally, he could be forgiven; but, passive to the core, he obeys his enemy – the instinct – like a coward. And thus he perpetuates the cursed heritage by giving life to beings who did not ask to be born.
Unconsciously, he most often commits this homicide out of negligence, and he is usually severely punished by the disastrous consequences of this moment of oblivion.
Wherever he premeditated this crime, it must be said, no punishment is hard enough to make him expiate for it.
Whatever the feeling obeyed by those who procreate, as long as they act knowing the facts, aware of the fact that they create an organism sensitive to pain, a soul for disappointment, a wretched being, both victim and perpetrator, they are criminals; and the child has the right to consider his father and mother as mere murderers.
Yes, murderers! Since to give life implies to cause death.
This perspective should suffice to command abstention.
But then what?… It’s the end of the world!… Obviously, it’s the end of the world in the near term… and, for my part, I don’t see any disadvantages. I do not even dislike to behold, in the mists of eternity, the earth, finally purged of its human microbes, left to the flora and wild fauna, waiting for the blessed day when, stripped of its last teeming with life:]
This old shaved globe, with no beard nor hair.
Will roll through the skies like a big pumpkin,
Moreover, everything in the universe indicates that nature itself is moving towards this solution – that it is wise to hustle things on in the general interest.’
‘…the perversity of this Creator inciting his creatures to procreate for the pleasure of seeing them devour each other.’