Around 100 French farmers have burned a tax office and agricultural insurance office to the ground, in protest at falling living standards which they blame on red tape. The farmers are reported to have used their tractors to prevent firefighting trucks from reaching the blaze, an action which the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls decried as “particularly shocking.”
The blaze took place in the town of Morlaix, Brittany, which lies in northwest France, The Local has reported. Commenting on the occurrence, Valls conveyed his vigorous condemnation of the events, saying “Legal action will be taken against the perpetrators. Nothing justifies the use of violent methods that don’t resolve anything.”
Prosecutors in the nearby city of Brest have opened an investigation but so far no arrests have been made. Both buildings were burned to the ground.
A local resident who was near the tax office described how the farmers deployed vegetables in their bid to keep firefighters from tackling the flames: “When the fire truck finally managed to reach the building, they dumped their artichokes to slow the men down,” he said. “It was a ballet of tractors that was not spontaneous, it was well organised.”
The Mayor of Morlaix, Anges le Brun condemned the criminal actions of the farmers, but admitted that tensions had been on the rise for months, finally brought to a head thanks to “a combination of events: “a fall in consumption, overproduction, falling prices, the Russian embargo, increasingly overwhelming payroll costs.”
Gilles Moal, an artichoke farmer complained that the situation was so bad, he had “the impression of not having the right to a future.”
High taxes and mounting red tape were the focus of the farmers’ ire, and were blamed for the fall in living standards that the farmers are experiencing. Xavier Beulin, head of the FNSEA farmers’ federation said “This is an action of some violence that unfortunately reflects an exasperation, a strong distress in the agricultural world today.”