French figures: The creature that sparked a protest method

French figures: The creature that sparked a protest method
Photo: AFP
There's a popular stereotype that the French eat snails, although actually it's not as common as you might imagine, but the snail is also key to another aspect of French life - protests.

If you hear about an Opération escargot, don't be looking out for any slimy creatures with shells.

You will see things going slowly though, which is how the humble snail inspired a popular form of French protest.

An Opération escargot is what we might call a rolling roadblock in English – it's when several cars, lorries or tractors drive very slowly together along a major route, creating a massive traffic jam behind them.

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Farmers stage an Opération escargot on the motorway near Calais. Photo: AFP

And it's a commonly-used method of protest in France – angry farmers do it in their tractors, if hauliers get involved in any sort of protest they usually stage as Opération escargot and the Paris ringroad is always a popular location. Generally a traffic-choked nightmare at the best of times, the périphérique sometimes comes to a complete standstill if angry lorry drivers, taxi drivers or driving instructors are staging a protest there.

Its name comes, of course, from the fact that snails are famously slow movers.

As well as on the roads and on bistrot menus, you will also finds snails in a bakery – an alternative name for a pain aux raisins is an escargot, particularly in eastern France.


This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.  

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