(CNN)The struggle between vegans and the meat industry in France takes a new turn Tuesday as butchers meet with government officials to appeal for strengthened protection from the "terrorism" of vegan militants.
Butchers seek government help to combat militant vegans
The CFBCT French butchers confederation said that attacks on butchers and fishmongers have intensified in 2018. In the dead of night, the organization said, militants smash windows and spray anti-meat slogans onto storefronts, often splattering them with fake blood.
The tussle over the country's relationship with animals made headlines last week when Jean-François Guihard, the CFBCT's President, wrote to Interior Minister Gérard Collomb to ask for safeguards against such "attacks."
He said that two more butchers' shops -- in Lyon and Angier -- have been vandalized since he made the letter public.
"For me it's the vegan community that is responsible," Guihard told CNN. He believes certain associations, which he refused to name, support the guerrilla tactics. "They don't condemn [the violence]," he said, "which means they condone it."
He hopes Tuesday's meeting with the Interior Ministry will result in the "thugs being arrested."
The Interior Ministry told CNN that the discussions -- in which Collomb is not scheduled to take part -- could lead to surveillance systems being installed in "places where the threat is most serious."
Guihard -- a butcher himself -- denounced "authoritarian" vegans who "want to impose their lifestyle... on the immense majority of the population" in his letter, and called on Collomb to stop "intimidation" and "violence" against the 18,000 "honest professionals" he represents.
In Lille last year, seven meat-selling stores were squirted with fake blood, and a cluster of other incidents were reported around Paris and the Occitanie region. But the CFBCT has said that the episodes are becoming more frequent, and that in the past six months, more than 100 butchers, fishmongers and cheese shops have been targeted.
"[The attacks] don't come out of nowhere," said Jean-Pierre Poulain, a sociologist at the University of Toulouse who focuses on food. France's shrinking agricultural sector and the media spotlight on animal-rights issues have begun to "delegitimize animal death," he said, and movements abroad have set precedents for this type of violence.
The recent number of attacks surprises him, but the nature of them does not -- "certain groups in that milieu have violent attitudes," he said.