In Brittany, a pig farmer persecuted by agribusiness

Lanvellec (Côtes-d’Armor), report

There is something of the village of Asterix in this story. In Côtes-d’Armor, surrounded by pig farms with at least 500 heads, Antoine Raoul and his eighty animals are displaced. Two visions of agriculture no longer coexist and the 63-year-old farmer is overwhelmed by business and threats. Seven court cases, including appeals, fines of thousands of euros, a suspended sentence of four months in prison, animals slaughtered by the authorities, several visits to the Plouaret gendarmerie – as well as theONCFS (Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, which merged with the French Biodiversity Agency) — plunged the breeder into great financial precariousness and put severe pressure on him and his family. What is he accused of ? Their free-range pigs can spread swine fever, according to large farmers in the region. An accusation he denies.

He welcomes us into his home, surrounded by his family and talks very sensitively about his animals, who feed on what they find on the farm’s 32 hectares – with a supplement of organic cereals and by-products from a nearby cheese dairy.

In 2014 I blinked at a breed of long haired black pigs, now I almost regret itstill smiles Antoine Raoul. A few years ago, a good neighbor offered me an extra plot of land with a spring to put my pigs on. One day in February 2016, I found a wild boar there that proved to be more and more friendly to Man and my beasts, with eighty little ones a few months later. ! I weaned them and brought them in to raise them indoors. I sent some of them to the slaughterhouse for eighteen months without a hitch until one morning in July 2018. Nine state agents came to my house, four of them in uniform. »

I fell in love with this breed of long-haired black pigs. » © Guy Pichard / Reporterre

So, for the Breton creator, on the market since 1987, a long and heavy legal series begins, which, according to his lawyer, resembles implacability. Several things are censured to him, in particular the digression, some destruction attributed to his animals, and the hybridization », explains Maître Jérôme Bouquet-Elkaim, his lawyer. From December 2019 until a conviction in April 2022, the creator defended himself several times in the courts of Guingamp and Rennes, highlighting two episodes that show that what is at stake in Lanvellec goes beyond the fight between farmers.

ONE “ danger to pig farming »

The first episode took place at the Saint-Brieuc criminal court on October 5, 2020. Antoine Raoul was summoned to destruction of a forest plantation less than ten years old (with a fine of up to 3,750 euros) and refusal to comply with the injunctions of the descriptive records (punishment of two years in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros) », with the farmer refusing to be photographed and fingerprinted during a stormy summons to the local gendarmerie. Thinking of coming to defend himself against a banal destruction of a neighboring farmer’s land by – a priori – his pigs, Antoine Raoul and his lawyer discovered three civil parties: in addition to the neighbor, the Chamber of Agriculture of Brittany and the spokesman of the Departmental Federation of Farmers’ Unions of Côtes-d’Armor (FDSEA 22). They were asking for compensation like agricultural organizations », said Mr.and Bouquet-Elkaim.

Basically, this story could have remained a simple dispute between neighboring farmers over a plot of corn damaged by animals, allegedly those of Antoine Raoul. The breeder’s insurance also indemnified his neighbor. But this event would have served as a pretext for the FDSEA 22 and the Brittany Chamber of Agriculture to criminally attack the breeder. After a few seconds about the damage done by my animals, the spokesperson for the FDSEA 22 insisted on the danger I posed to swine farming »remember Antoine Raoul. For its part, the Chamber of Agriculture made it known by post that it was asking for my conviction and that it was supporting my neighbor there. »

Pigs are raised outdoors. © Guy Pichard / Reporterre

Second episode of the story: an administrative battle of destruction by slaughtering stray animals such as hybrid pigs and wild boar » authorized by the mayor of Côtes-d’Armor, following this same complaint from the neighbor. Pattern : the risks » what would these pigs weigh in terms of public safety » it’s from significant agricultural damage due to its diversion ».

Five of his animals were then slaughtered around his farm. One of the dead beasts was a male hybrid that I raised differently, almost like a pet. »he remembers. His name was Vitório and they killed him. From that day, I showed another face. » The breeder approached the mayor of Lanvellec to ask him to come to the site, which he refused. Antoine Raoul believed that shooting safety rules at his home had not been respected and threatened to file a complaint. The next day, two gendarmes arrived at his house, one of them even burying his face against the farmer, encouraging him not to sue… I discovered police violence at age 59 and felt myself falling into an abyss »he describes. I told them that the next time they came to kill my pigs, they would have to kill me first. »

Swine fever as a scarecrow

This individual endangers the entire industry of a country and the thousands of jobs that come with it. He is taken over by a petty crook in the profession. I’m also a pig farmer. If I lived within his perimeter, I don’t know how I would have reacted. » It is through his words that the chairman of the working group pork » Brittany Chambers of Agriculture, mentioned the case of Antoine Raoul during a telephone interview with news reporter. With its productivist agricultural model, Brittany concentrates 56 % of French pigs and is dotted with large farms. The president of the Regional Pork Committee, for example, Philippe Bizien, is currently awaiting the regularization of a farm with 27,000 animals.

If Antoine Raoul and his eighty animals put a country’s entire industry at risk » as stated by Thierry Marchal, it is because these outdoor animals, sometimes in contact with wild boar, would pose a threat to the health of their neighboring industrial breeders: African swine fever. France is currently protected from this disease, which is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs and wild boar. Considered to be at greater risk, the most controlled farms are those in the open, in the name of what is called biosecurity. Breeders in Morbihan and Finistère, for example, have all been verified on this matter. »explains Édouard Boudin, pork technician at Bretagne Viande Bio. In terms of biosecurity, the instructions are much simpler for conventional farms, as they are in closed buildings. We have two creators at home that are not up to par and it’s a matter of budget, the investment is too big. »

This farm is quite isolated, surrounded by a multitude of large farms. © Guy Pichard / Reporterre

If a case were detected in France, the same precautionary principle as in avian flu would apply: the slaughter of all pigs within a radius of several kilometers. If swine fever is detected in France, the pork trade will collapse. For breeders, state compensation will not be enough »warns Thierry Marchal, breeder in Sizun (29), secretary of the FDSEA 29 and producer of 15,000 pigs a year. If swine fever reaches my farm, it means that the disease has already crossed France », Antoine Raoul defends himself.

Outdoor farming, therefore, seems to upset an agro-industrial system that would like to close Mr. Raoul. Last episode: another exchange with the gendarmes to tell him that they hoped not to return to his house to see his suicide. Not to mention the article west of France of May 25 that publishes his name and lists his convictions. The breeder also discovers there that his appeal in cassation came to nothing. After that, he wrote a daily right of reply to defend himself, to no avail. In this dossier, I clearly perceive a relentlessness against Antoine Raoul because he is constantly dragged into the criminal justice system while his neighborhood problems are basically administrative, in particular that of the corn plot that should have been solved simply through insurance »regrets M.and Jerome Bouquet-Elkaim. The root of the problem is that he practices outdoor farming in Brittany in a context of intensive farming, with conventional breeders’ phobia about swine fever. My client acts as a scapegoat, we can even talk about relentlessness »concludes.

The root of the problem is that he practices outdoor breeding in Brittany in a context of intensive breeding. » © Guy Pichard / Reporterre

By cornering Antoine Raoul financially and morally, the Breton swine industry uses methods far removed from the image it tries to give itself. From the beginning of May, the Miami Tour crosses Brittany for the summer. Orchestrated by the regional pork committee and with various public authorities as partners (and even a public media, France Bleu), this communication operation visits cities with the aim of create a link between breeders and citizens to open the dialogue on pig farming ». No stage is planned for the moment in Lanvellec…

For this article, neither FDSEA 22 nor the city of Lanvellec responded to our requests.

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