“Ymmmm…this lamb is very good,” we said at a dinner party in France the last time we were there.
“Oh…yes…it is good,” said our old friend, Pierre. “It’s from New Zealand. And it almost got me arrested.
“Back in the ’80s, I was raising sheep. Even then it wasn’t a great business. Sheep are a pain in the neck. You can never turn your back on them. They are either getting stuck in the fence or coming down with a terrible illness. You have to be on the job 24 hours a day…7 days a week. No vacations. No holidays. Never a day off.
“And to make it worse, you don’t earn any money. At least not in France.
“Anyway…as poor as the sheep business was, it got poorer in the ’80s. The British exported lamb to the French market…and they undercut our prices. Because they were part of the European Union, we couldn’t do anything about it. It’s a free trade zone. But the British couldn’t produce lamb that cheap either. What they did was import it from New Zealand and then sell it all over Europe as ‘British lamb.’ It was outrageous. And I was very mad about it.
“So about a dozen of us decided to take political action. We found out where the British lamb was shipped from…a place in Poitiers…and we decided to block the roads.
“Well, it didn’t go so well. We drove up and waited for one of their trucks to come along…and then we put our cars in the middle of the road. But we left a little gap…actually, a fairly big gap between a couple of the cars… Then, when the truck came up, the driver stopped…and he yelled… ‘What the Hell are you guys doing?’ Or something like that. We explained that we were blocking the road so he couldn’t distribute British lamb. Well, he got back into his truck…put the big rig in gear…and smashed through our cars….
“The next time, we did stop one of the trucks…and we decided that we were going at least to let them know in Paris that we were upset about these lamb shipments… So we took the truck to the train station…dumped the lamb out onto the tracks and set fire to it. It was a huge fire…so hot the rails glowed red. We had the police…fire department…news media… But…it was nighttime…and we just pretended to be spectators when the police arrived.
“Then, we really decided to go big time. We planned a commando raid on the British embassy in Paris. I was supposed to distract the guards…while one of our trucks got through the gates. It was all planned out to the second. And we even had one an insider…someone who had a pass to the embassy…I don’t know how he got it…
“But that went bad when there was a terrorist attack in Britain…and all the embassies were on alert…so we called it off. Instead, we decided to target the French minister of Agriculture. What a waste of time. The media didn’t even cover it. They were used to it. The chicken farmers had been there the week before. And the dairy farmers tried to demonstrate the same day we did. You practically had to get in line and take a number if you planned to do a demonstration at the Agricultural ministry…
“Later we tried one last thing at home. This time we stopped one of the trucks with British lamb and set the whole truck on fire. This time the gendarmes were really mad. They came and surrounded us. They took our names and addresses and let us go. They were planning to arrest us later. But that just shows how the police operate in France. We knew someone in the police headquarters. He went on the computer and erased our names… So I was never charged with anything…”
for Markets and Money