Man held in mystery case of decapitated seals on French beaches

A man has been arrested over the case of the decapitated seals that has shocked coastal communities in Brittany in northern France.

Man held in mystery case of decapitated seals on French beaches
Photo: AFP

Several cases of seals being found dead and mutilated – including one case in which the decapitated head of a seal was displayed in a harbour – have been reported over the past year in western and northern France.

The killings were so disturbing that ocean advocacy group Sea Shepherd had offered a €10,000 reward for any information about the perpetrators.

Now three people have been interviewed by local police, and one arrested in connection with the killings, reported French newspaper Le Parisien.

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A spokesman for animal rights group NCO Gaultier said: “It all started in mid-February. 

“We were contacted by the marina captain's office at Concarneu (in Brittany) who reported a harbour seal head hanging from a rope at the end of the wall.” 

A month later, on March 10, a headless seal body in an advanced state of decomposition was found on a nearby beach.

A week later, a new headless carcas was discovered on the coast of the neighbouring town of Trégunc.

Once again, the head, which had not been found, had been severed with a sharp object, “probably a simple fishing knife”.

The man held in custody is reported to be a member of the local fishing community.

The Local France reported on another spate of seal murders in 2018, in which local fishermen were also suspected of carrying out the barbaric acts.

Their prime suspects back then were a group of fishermen who'd set up an anti-seal collective, due to the fact that the seals deplete the local fish resources.

“This anti-seal collective may or may not be directly responsible for poaching, but it is certain that it is responsible for a climate of hatred and resentment towards these animals,” regional head of Sea Shepherd, Lamya Essemlali told French radio channel Europe 1 at the time.

Other animal right activists have also preferred not to paint the whole region's community with the same brush.

“Generally, fishermen and boaters respect seals,” NCO Gautier told Le Parisien,

“They're a protected species, very present on our shores and appreciated by all.

“They're also predatory animals that feed on many fish and have their hunting areas.”

Killing seals is a criminal offense in France that can range from a € 3,750 fine to two years in prison and a €150,000 penalty for those found guilty.


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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to