Hundreds of tractors en route to blockade Paris

UPDATED: A convoy of around 1,000 tractors carrying hundreds of disgruntled French farmers is heading in the direction of Paris where they plan to bring travel chaos to the French capital on Thursday in a bid to raise attention to their desperate plight.

Hundreds of tractors en route to blockade Paris
A convoy of tractors is heading to Paris so best stay off the roads on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Beleaguered French farmers are set to continue their recent protests this week when they descend on Paris in protest at falling prices that they say are endangering their livelihoods.

The farmers who caused travel chaos earlier this summer when they blocked entry to towns and tourist attractions around the country are set to do the same when they reach Paris on Thursday.

Their tractor convoy which was already 70 vehicles strong when it set off from Brittany on Tuesday is destined for Place de la Nation in Paris.

On Thursday morning the protest, organized by farming union FNSEA, will see farmers hold a go-slow on the Périphérique, the ring road around Paris, a move likely to bring commuter traffic to a halt.

'Sorry Paris but the farmers are coming'

“We're at our wits' end,” said Sebastien Louzaouen, a member of the Young Farmers' Union, which represents agricultural workers aged 35 and under.

“If we show that we can blockade Paris, maybe it will prod the government into action. My apologies to the Parisians, but the farmers are coming.”

Breton flags were flying from many of the tractors and numerous vehicles were daubed with slogans to highlight the plight of the farmers who say their livelihoods are in jeopardy due to falling prices for their produce, which they blame on foreign competition and supermarket giants.




One read “Peasant anger rises in Paris” while another was a common criticism of France’s strict labour laws and notoriously hefty red tape: “Bureaucracy kills jobs”.

Another slogan painted on a tractor simply read: “Help, we are dying”.

The convoy will gather in Place de la Nation, after which a small number of tractors will head to the French parliament where they will warn MPs “that rural life is at breaking point”.

Other protests are set to take place on a smaller scale around the country.

The agriculture minister has estimated that around 10 percent of farms in France — approximately 22,000 sites — are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of one billion euros.

In July, the under-pressure French government announced a €600-million rescue plan for its struggling agriculture industry following days of protests, which saw the town of Caen blockaded as well as the route to Mont-Saint-Michel (see photo below).


The measures sparked a mixed reaction, with some farmers stopping their protests, but others vowing to step up their blockades.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared: “We hear the anguish of the farmers,” many of whom say they are on the brink of bankruptcy due to falling prices and increased competition.
“We have seen a fear of the future but also the desire to do a job that is more than a job: being a farmer means making a lot of sacrifices … and contributing to the unique job of feeding the French people,” Valls told reporters.
Valls said the government would waive around €100 million in taxes and set aside a further €500 million to give farmers more time to pay various debts and taxes.
In addition, France's public investment bank will guarantee €500 million in loans for farmers to ease their cash flow crisis.

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French hunter kills bear that bit him

A 70-year-old hunter killed a bear in southwest France Saturday after it attacked and seriously wounded him, local officials said.

A brown bear is pictured in the semi-wildlife animal park of Les Angles, southwestern France.
Brown bears had nearly disappeared in France until the country began a reintroduction programme, importing them from Slovenia. AFP PHOTO / RAYMOND ROIG

The female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, bit him as he was hunting in the Seix region of Ariege, a source close to the case said.

Rescued by the local gendarmerie, he was transported to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Toulouse with a wound to his leg at the level of his femoral artery, officials at the prefecture in Ariege said.

One source close to the case said he was in a serious condition.

The hunter told local officials he had been out with a group of other hunters on the trail of a boar, when the female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, attacked him.

After being wounded, the hunter shot the bear twice, killing it.

The local gendarme unit was called out to rescue him at around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT). They discovered the body of the bear a few metres from where they had found the hunter.

An investigation has been opened into the incident, the prefecture in Ariege said.

One local official told AFP on Saturday: “This is really what we feared.”

“Today, you can really see that cohabitation is complicated,” said Christine Tequi, president of the Ariege department council.

The brown bear had nearly disappeared in this part of the world when France began a programme of reintroducing them, importing them from Slovenia.

Today, there are around sixty of them in the Pyrenees range, leading to increasing tensions with local farmers, because of the threat they pose to their livestock.

In 2020, three bears were illegally killed in the Pyrenees: two of them in Spain and one in France. The French government has committed to replacing any bear killed by a man.

READ ALSO: The decades-old battle between French farmers and conservationists over bears
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