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More than 30 horses have been mutilated or killed in violent attacks across France since February, with cases rising in recent weeks. French authorities are no closer to finding a motive behind the attacks, but have warned the public not to take matters into their own hands.
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The barbaric attacks have been different in nature, but are usually carried out with a knife. Horses, ponies and donkeys have been slashed, disembowelled or bled, had their genitals mutilated, eyes gouged out or, in the majority of cases, had an ear cut off.
The most recent attack took place at 2am on September 6 in the Côte dOr department in the east of France. A man saw torches in his field and called the police, who sent 40 officers, a dog unit and a helicopter. One of his horses was discovered with a superficial wound. The police have said that they are searching for two men in relation to the attack.
The spate of attacks have drawn widespread attention in France and are under investigation by the DGSI, part of Frances intelligence and security services.
'Someone has to defend the horses'
Horse owners across the country are terrified. Police have advised them to install cameras on their property, take off horses head collars before setting them loose in the field, patrol the fields at night and ring the police if there is any suspicious activity.
But many owners think its not enough, and are frustrated at the lack of support from local police forces.
One woman furiously told French regional TV station France 3 Bretagne: “Weve had enough! Im not ashamed to say it, my gun is loaded and I wont hesitate to shoot if I need to. We cant be surprised if someone injures or kills one of these individuals. Someone has to defend the horses.”
The authorities are warning against such displays of vigilantism, however.
In Finistère, Brittany, a woman, 51, and her daughter, 23, have been arrested and face up to five years in prison after stopping a car on the road on the night of September 2, suspecting the vehicles occupants of involvement in the attacks. The woman and her daughter were both armed with machetes and pellet guns. The two women in the car later filed a complaint.
The head of the police in Finistère, Colonel Nicolas Duvinage, said, “We cannot take justice into our own hands. I remind you that legitimate defence is valid if someone is attacking humans, but not horses. If an owner punches someone, or worse, shoots an individual, they would be liable to a judicial investigation.”
Horse owners share information
Horse owners across France are banding together on social media in an attempt to collate information about the attacks and share resources. Facebook groups titled Protect our horses! have sprung up for a number of regional departments in France. Citizens have also created an interactive map in an attempt to track and detail the attacks. The map shows more than 100 cases.