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The French Farmers' Revolt - Will It Make More People Vegan?

Updated: Jan 28

Why have the French farmers started a revolt, is this a gain for vegans?

Through history there have been many protests staged by farmers. From France to South Korea, protests have been used to push back against regulations, subsidy cuts and other trade arrangements set by governments. These movements cause disruption, make a lot of noise and are used to highlight the issues that farmers face such as production cost increases, environmental regulations or market conditions and can affect meat supplies within a country and to many other countries as exports slow down and reduce income for a nation.

truck wheels
French farmers are using their tractors to block roads

Recent Farmer Protests

Farmer protests have a history that spans the globe and goes back more than100 years. The most notable protests have been the result of governments directly reducing the income of farmers either through the reduction of subsidies, reducing the amount that a farmer can produce or the price that they can charge. Today, the number of protests held by farmers is increasing as governments respond to the worsening environmental crisis, forcing them to look at the impact that farming has on the environment:

  • Indian Farmers' Protests (2020-2021): This is one of the most recent and widely covered farmers' protests. Farmers in India, primarily from the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, protested against three agricultural reforms introduced by the government that massively cut farmers' incomes. The protests gained international attention and continued for several months.

  • Spanish Farmers' Protests (Jan 2023): In January 2023, following Spain's hottest year on record, Spanish farmers protested plans to restrict the amount of water that farmers could take from the Tagus river by taking to the streets of Madrid.

  • Ireland's Dairy Protests (Dec 2023): Dairy farmers in Ireland protested restrictions in the amount of nitrogen emission by marching their cows to government offices.

  • German Farmers' Protests (Dec 2023): After the German government decided to cut fuel subsidies for German farmers, protests broke out with 100,000 tractors being used to block streets, causing parts of Berlin to grind to a halt.

  • Poland's Farmers' Protests (2024): In Poland farmers are getting ready to block roads, in as many as 250 locations, in revolt over the planned cuts to carbon emissions and cheap food imports from Ukraine.

  • Dutch farmers' protests (Dutch: boerenprotesten): The Dutch farmers protests are a series of demonstrations by Dutch livestock farmers, mainly characterised by the use of tractors to block roads, and occupy public spaces, including beaches. The protests were initially triggered in October 2019 by a proposal in parliament to halve the country's livestock in an attempt to limit agricultural pollution in the Netherlands so that emission targets could be met. The protests have been made worse as farmers have been motivated by the perceived lack of respect for their profession by the Dutch public, media and politicians.

The 2024 French Protest

French farmers have a history of organising protests against government policies, that have included issues related to subsidies, trade agreements, and other economic conditions affecting agriculture. But this demonstration has become a much sadder event with a French farmer and her 12 year old daughter dying after a car crashed into a roadblock. The accident happened one hour south of Toulouse when bales of straw, placed by farmers, were hit by a car which then went on to hit three people, the farmer, her daughter and husband. The farmer died at the scene of the crash, her daughter later died in hospital, the farmer's husband was left injured.

In the south-west, one of France's most important agricultural regions where farmers have the lowest incomes in the profession, farmers have cut off key roads for days in protests against new environmental regulations and rising energy costs. The farmer who was killed spoke to a local radio station only days before the accident, saying "I've got two girls to look after and we live for them. We don't go on holiday, we don't get a day off,". As the farmers' protests spread across France, tractors and lorries blocked the A7 motorway in south-east France, with the slogan "we're dying to feed you" daubed in red on one of the vehicles.

Farmer Protests and Vegan Fights

In terms of the vegan fight, this is not a win. As these protests continue in Europe, and across the globe, meat and dairy production is being effected. As demand continues to increase, but the amount of animal products on sale goes down, the price will go up. Some people will be priced out of buying animal products, but most will just opt for cheaper versions, cheaper cuts of meat with more fat on them, sausages and burgers, tinned meat. The eggs that cost less because they have lower welfare standards. Animals won't suffer less, they might even suffer more.

These protests have nothing to do with veganism and it is hard to see how we can use their fight to create our win. These farmers aren't looking to change to growing plants, they can't think beyond doing what they have always done. Price increases and shortages of animal products may help drive a few people towards a more plant-based diet, but as a tool, a way to move people towards veganism, this isn't the way. Besides, we can't use their misery to push our message. We are about compassion, understanding and caring. We're better than that.


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