Cows Graze Under Eiffel Tower as Farmers Protest Beef Prices
French farmers marched dozens of cattle to the graceful frame of the Eiffel Tower Friday to demand that the government save their industry from the beef scare brought on by “mad cow” disease.
Beef prices have plummeted across Europe since March, when British officials linked a fatal human brain illness to cattle tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Farmers led their cattle on a 19-day, 180-mile march to the capital, where they met President Jacques Chirac and Agriculture Minister Philippe Vasseur.
Chirac “told us that he will not let us down,” farmer Pierre Grolleau said, wearing blue dungarees outside the Elysee presidential palace. “For me it is already a great guarantee.”
The European Union plans to gradually lift a ban on British beef, but French farmers say they would oppose any such action until London toughens its measures to eradicate “mad cow” disease.
Days before the march on Paris, 15,000 angry cattle farmers had blocked roads across France, stopping refrigerator trucks to search for illegally imported beef.
The sight of cattle grazing in the City of Lights drew little reaction from Parisians--to the chagrin of farmers who said they received wide sympathy while marching from the town of Charroux in the southwestern countryside.