SPACE, the French livestock trade show, would not quite be SPACE without some sort of protest, but during the 2015 edition at least, the major demonstrations were kept beyond the entrances to the Rennes, Brittany, showground.

300 protesters gathered at the gates, along with 60 tractors, to call for greater regulation of the European dairy and pork sectors. A strong police presence around and within the showground was ready to head off anything more than peaceful protests, and while issues were raised, little disruption occurred.

Within the confines of the showground, the demonstration was peaceful with a band of flag-waving protestors being led from exhibition hall to exhibition hall to the piping of bagpipes, as Brittany is a region of France with a long Celtic heritage.

This demonstration, however, was but one of a series of protests that have taken place across Europe this year.

Difficulties for European production

The European agricultural crisis is a deep one, although different sectors are being affected to varying degrees.  Dairy has been affected particularly hard, with farming groups from across Europe calling from improved prices either from supermarkets or more government intervention.

Many dairy farmers are selling milk at below cost, and the call at SPACE was for the “right to an income, and greater European protection.”

There is a feeling among many livestock producers that there is little point in continuing to produce. When the cost of investment and regulatory compliance is compared with returns, the appeal of livestock production is ever less.

However, the problem is also due, in part to a lack of investment. In the case of France, for example, the country’s pig producers have fallen behind those based in neighboring Spain and Germany because there has been a failure to invest.

French producers are calling on their government to adopt “significant measures” not only to help modernize livestock production and meat processing, but also to help restore competitiveness and create a viable future for the sector.