France is facing an unprecedented wave of attacks on horses across the country that have left investigators perplexed and farmers concerned for the safety of their animals.
More than 150 horses have been maimed in a series of seemingly random incidents. Attacks range from simple lacerations to the removal of an eye or other parts. Without a particular model, speculation ranges from a single attacker with unknown motives to a satanic cult performing some sort of ceremony.
Joint investigations are being carried out by several agencies, including the local and national police, the central territorial intelligence service (SCRT) and the central office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health (Oclaesp), according to the newspaper. French Liberation.
In early September, 153 investigations into such attacks were underway, according to France Bleu radio. The attacks were reported in 20 departments, and include more than 30 this summer.
“There are today 153 investigations which are opened everywhere in France in more than half of the departments of France”, declared on September 9 the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, according to the site of information Ouest-France.
Some of these attacks date back to two years, but they appear to have accelerated over the summer, triggering a wave of stories that have ultimately drawn national attention to the matter.
At the end of August, the French Minister of Agriculture, Julien Denormandie, visited an equestrian center in Saône-et-Loire where one of these attacks occurred. He condemned animal violence and vowed the government would do whatever it took to find the people involved.
“These barbaric acts against horses are unbearable,” he wrote in a tweet. “All the necessary means are mobilized and implemented to put an end to this terror.”
During this visit, he met stable owner Thomas Desgres, who had discovered one of his horses with a deep cut in his ear. Desgres said he now sleeps near the stable and wakes up to do security checks every 30 minutes, according to France Bleu.
In the neighboring department of Yonne, a stable owner caught two men cutting a horse and was able to give the police a description of one of them. On September 8, authorities arrested a suspect in the Haut-Rhin on the basis of this description, but then released him after checking an alibi.
The lack of clear motivation has led to speculation that the acts are committed by a satanic cult. In an interview with La Dépêche newspaper, religious historian Jacky Cobbler said many attacks involved mutilation of the horse’s ear. It suggested some sort of ritual.
“Tearing out an ear, an eye or collecting blood looks like witchcraft practices,” he says. “These organs are used by them to acquire the strength and power of the animal. Historically, this type of sacrifice has existed to bewitch someone for power or sex.
Meanwhile, the locals are taking matters into their own hands. In the Tarn-et-Garonne department, for example, local horse owners have formed a group called “SOS Chevaux 82”, a sort of neighborhood watch to patrol the fields and stables. Dressed in yellow vests with the name of the group on the back, the members take turns throughout the day and night to observe each other’s horses.
“Our yellow vest is our only weapon,” said Didier Thouron, owner of an equestrian center who helped organize the monitoring group. “The idea is to protect the animals and raise awareness among owners.”