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FARMING

Fed up French farmers unimpressed by France’s presidential hopefuls

Frustrated and left behind, farmers at the annual Salon de l'Agriculture farming exhibition in Paris tell The Local they have little hope the presidential election will change their fortunes.

Fed up French farmers unimpressed by France's presidential hopefuls
Photo: AFP
The Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris is a key publicity event in the electoral calendar, where presidential candidates go for their “stroking the cow” photo-op.
 
It's also a good place to gauge the general feeling of those who make their livelihood in France's important agriculture industry.
 
And the mood does not appear good.
 
Jean Joel Sillac, a cattle breeder in Nouvelle Aquitaine in southwestern France, and winner of 2016's prize cow, says the atmosphere has changed, “this year people are a lot more morose,” he told The Local. “We're all frustrated”.
 
“We're realising that the debates concerning agriculture and farmers aren't being listened to any more”.
 
Many of the stall-holders at the expo felt the same way, and told us they didn't feel the choice of candidates for the upcoming presidential election inspired much confidence that their concerns would be heard any time soon.  
 
“They don't give us hope any more because they're so far from the reality,” Alain Benoit, another farmer at the exposition told The Local.
 
“They all come here to see the Salon de l'Agriculture, but they don't give real answers to real questions.”
 
Dairy farmer Marie Fauer added: “I can't think of one candidate who matches up to what I want.”  
 
She says the most important thing is that the candidate “stops thinking that France is so rich, France is this and that, they need to be a bit more humble”.
 
It comes as a surprise, given this feeling of mistrust and contempt for politicians, that the candidate who appeared to be the most popular among French farmers at the show was the scandal-hit Francois Fillon.
 
 
Photo. AFP 
 
Yes, the right-wing candidate who is to be charged over misuse of public funds for allegedly paying his wife Penelope over €800,000 for a fake job still has friends among France's farmers.
 
The organisation Agriculture et Liberté, conducting a survey of farmers found that three days into the show, the Les Republicains candidate was coming on top, followed closely by Front National's Marine Le Pen.
 
“At the moment, it's Fillon, at 22 percent, and then you have Le Pen after at 18 percent,” Daisy Odabasi of Agriculture et Liberté, told The Local. 
 
Despite Penelopegate, as it's known, it seems that many of those at the expo were ready to forgive and forget.
 
“Before it was Fillon, but now … it's still Fillon” Giselle Perrillat-Collomb, a dairy farmer in Haute Savoie told The Local when asked who she would vote for. Although she agreed that Fillon had lost some of the public's trust after the scandal.
 
Fillon's battle with Le Pen to win over the agricultural community is tight, and some farmers said it was still a close call for them between the two.
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
Le Pen, who attended the event on Monday, was the star attraction, with some spectators climbing up onto haystacks to get a glimpse of the controversial National Front candidate.
 
Pierre Besançon, a cattle farmer at the salon told The Local he would vote for Le Pen, but only because all the other candidates weren't up to much.
 
“Emmanuel Macron, he's rubbish”  Besançon told The Local, citing the former banker's connections with the world of finance. “Politicians have left us behind. Le Pen is something new”.
 
However, others said Le Pen isn't good news for the farming community. “Le Pen has no proposals for us,” Alain Benoit told The Local.
 
For many farmers who do support her bid, the attraction may be in her anti-EU stance and promise to take France out of the union if she can't reinstate a national currency, rather than specific agricultural policies.
 
French farmers have been a significant voice in anti-EU sentiment, blockading roads with tractors and even dumping manure on buildings and Spanish wine on motorways in protest over slumping prices for their products.
 
But it would be wrong to say that all farmers are against the EU.
 
 
Photo: AFP 
 
“One thing we're sure about is that we need Europe,” Marianne Dutoit, director of the National Federation of Agricultural Worker's Unions (FNSEA) told The Local. 
 
Dutoit fears a “Frexit” (France leaving the EU) saying “Brexit was a catastrophe, what happened in the UK scared us”.
 
In terms of candidates, Dutoit declined to show her support for any one runner, “we just need someone who will defend Europe” she told The Local.
 
By Rose Trigg

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FARMING

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
READ ALSO: What are the most dangerous animals in France?

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