Butchers in France have appealed to their government for protection in the midst of violence and threats they face from vegans and animal rights activists. In both the Hauts-de-France region and the southern Occitanie region of the country, butcher shops have been attacked. Shops have been vandalized with graffiti, sprayed with fake blood and have had their windows destroyed. Owners of the stores have reported that these activities are a form of terrorism, asking the authorities to intervene and put an end to this kind of aggressive behaviour. This violence rose as veganism and vegetarianism gained popularity in France, sparking harassment of those involved in the meat industry.
The president of the French Confederation of Butchery, Jean-François Guihard, recently wrote a letter to French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on behalf of the 18 000 butchers in France. TIME reports that in the letter he implores the leadership to “stop the physical, moral, and verbal violence” that butchers face, adding, “[We] are nonetheless deeply shocked that part of the population wants to impose its way of life, not to mention its ideology on the vast majority [of the populace],” according to Global Meat News. Guihard closed his message with a call for everyone to be able to work in peace and be free to make their own dietary choices. As claimed by the New York Times, the leader of the Vegan Federation has condemned these brutal measures with finality: “Veganism is really about reducing violence.”
This unrest comes in the wake of an increase in French media attention on veganism. Although meat traditionally constitutes a large percentage of the French cuisine, their sales have experienced a slight fall due to the rising number of vegans and vegetarians, still a minority in France, with the latter comprising just 3% of the population. Farmers and butchers, suffering from loss of sales, have appealed to their government, wanting “anti-meat” measures to be reduced. The parliament recently rejected a bill which proposed introducing vegetarian meals in schools while also banning the use of words such as “steak” and “fillet” in reference to the production of non-meat foods. Dairy producers have also been the subject of criticism. Last year, a cheesemonger reported that his shop was vandalized with the words “milk is murder”, among others, painted on its exterior. This movement has created a context for the fear-invoking events which butchers in France are currently experiencing.
It remains to be seen how the French authorities will choose to respond to the butchers’ pleas and whether they will provide protection as requested. Furthermore, the threatening actions of vegans should come to an end, mostly because it goes against their core principles and hate of violence. It is up to the leadership to ensure that the instigators of these actions are stopped and that the people of France involved in the meat industry are defended. Everyone should be able to freely choose their own diets without criticism and especially without fear, as it is a basic human right anybody should be allowed to enjoy.