A group of approximately 100 farmers took to the streets of Morlaix in western France last Friday, setting heaps of vegetables on fire and also torching an insurance building and tax office.
The protesting farmers are reportedly angered by France’s tax policies and falling prices related to a Russian embargo on western produce. The demonstrators drove into the town on tractors and pillaged an agricultural mutual insurance building before setting it on fire and ultimately destroying it, according to officials.
The farmers then drove the tractors to the community’s main tax office and dumped loads of manure and unsold vegetables in front of the building before setting the piles on fire. They proceeded to torch the piles, as well as the building.
Paris news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the farmers “were protesting against heavy fiscal burdens and red tape that have led to a decline in living standards.” Morlaix mayor Agnes Le Brun was critical of the protest but not apparently surprised, saying that the situation has been intensifying for months resulting in “a combination of events: a fall in consumption, overproduction, falling prices, the Russian embargo, increasingly overwhelming payroll costs.”
French media claimed that the protesters blocked traffic to Morlaix, allegedly to impede efforts from firefighters to put out the fires.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls quickly condemned the actions of the farmers and assured that those responsible for the destruction would be prosecuted. “Legal action will be taken against the perpetrators,” said Valls. “Nothing justifies the use of violent methods that don’t resolve anything.”
Xavier Beulin, head of the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Expoitants d’Agricoles (FNSEA) farmers’ federation, stated that “This is an action of some violence that unfortunately reflects an exasperation, a strong distress in the agricultural world today.”