No doubt you’ve seen television coverage of protests in France — complete with angry marchers, and even burning cars. Well, we had a protest near Daglan today and it was a manifestation (demonstration) of a very different sort. In fact, at least during the time that my wife and I were in attendance, it was downright polite.
What was the issue? The simplest way to convey the problem is to show you this view. It’s looking down from the hills of Mas de Cause, a collection of homes (some quite grand, with large properties) and a few farms, barely three kilometres from the centre of Daglan.
The problem is that a local farmer, a Monsieur Rilievo, has permission to construct a building in this area for raising calves for veal. Apparently he would receive calves when they are very young, and feed and raise them in his building until they are ready to be sent to the abattoir. (To be clear, the calves would not be slaughtered in this area, but would be trucked away.)
Now in the Greater Daglan Area, agriculture is vitally important; there are cattle grazing in fields all over the place. Without getting too much into the politics of the whole issue, some or all of the residents around Mas de Cause seem to be generally against this “industrial” approach to raising veal, and specifically against having the building plunked right in their midst, and spoiling the view. On top of that, there’s the matter of trucks travelling up and down the hilly, and rather narrow, roads.
The local residents even went so far as offering to pay for the additional services that Monsieur Rilievo would need (such as electricity and water) if he were to move his building site to an area called Le Mariot, less than a kilometre away. Then, as I understand it, things got bogged down in local politics, and the project seems to be going ahead. Hence, today’s protest, which was to get started around 2:30 p.m.
So today, on a fairly pleasant January afternoon, my wife Jan and I drove up the hill to Mas de Cause, and found cars parked all along the road, with gendarmes in attendance. We parked, and walked up to two of the officers to ask what was happening. The explanation was that the “con” group was located in one area, and the “pro” group in another. Since the “con” grouping was closer, we joined it — and found a number of people we know from the village. One of the men was handing out sheets with an explanation of the issue. Here’s some of the protesters:
And here is one of their two signs. I assume that, in an attempt to be positive, they begin the sign with oui (yes). It translates as: “Yes to 900 metres, at Le Mariot” (in other words, the alternate location), where the Mas de Cause residents wanted the veal farm to be placed.
What about the “pro” group? Apparently it was bulked up quite a bit because a number of farmers had been invited to join in, and support the project. At one point, members of the “pro” group formed a rectangle to show the size of the proposed building for the veal calves. Here they are, all lined up:
There were no speeches, no marching — just two groups of people facing off against each other, with lots of gendarmes walking around slowly to make sure things stayed calm. So Jan and I decided it was time to leave.
As we reached the road, a young gendarme said hello to us, and I said “C’est très tranquille, non?” (“It’s very quiet, isn’t it?”)
“Yes,” he replied in excellent English. Then we all said good afternoon to each other, and Jan and I left the quiet, polite demonstration in peace.