“I want my flock to be the last to be slaughtered”

Sadness, collapse, anger, rage, revolt. All these feelings follow one another and mingle, a real storm under Bérénice Walton’s head. Above all, tears are never far away and, at times, she cannot hold them back. The young 33-year-old breeder based in Arveyres (33) mourns her herd of Bazadaises which have been leaving by truck for the slaughterhouse for several days. She mourns the 35 calves who left last Tuesday. She mourns Jupiter, her ox – “I swore I would never let him go. He was the mascot of the herd.” She cries for everyone else. She mourns the twelve years of cultivating her passion for her profession, her love for her animals, all the work and investments made.

Last November, during a health check, one of his cows tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. “They tested all the animals from 24 months old. This is the first time that one of our cows has been affected,” says Bérénice Walton. According to protocol, the animal was slaughtered and examinations were carried out on the lungs and lymph nodes to check for infection by a laboratory in Périgueux, then second tests were carried out in Maisons-Alfort, which confirmed the case. . “We had confirmation before Christmas,” breathes the young woman. How did the disease get into the herd? Difficult to say, but suspicion is based on contact with a badger, found dead on a nearby road and whose examination showed that it carried the gene. “We know that the disease travels through wildlife. It can be transmitted from muzzle to muzzle, when sharing pots of water. And then badgers like the cereals that we give to the animals. »


Embarking on the last journey of these poor animals.

Thierry DAVID/SO

“Animal abuse”

Once the confirmation was made, the verdict did not take long to fall. “According to a protocol dating from 2001, all the animals had to be slaughtered to stem the disease, even though there were no symptoms in the other animals. » When asked, the prefecture claims to have proposed a selective slaughter initially accepted by the breeder before she made another choice. On January 8, a prefectural decree declared the farm a tuberculosis outbreak zone and the obligation to keep animals in the building. “However, according to the protocol, the State then has sixty days to evacuate the animals, but the deadlines have been largely exceeded. The animals were crowded together, they were sequestered in the building. From April 15, I was no longer allowed to take any animal out, otherwise I was threatened with a 4,000 euro fine and six months of imprisonment. After a while, I no longer had enough to feed them, it was a local breeder who helped me out. In addition to psychological violence for us, I call it animal abuse,” rages Bérénice Walton.


Bérénice Walton in an empty stable.

Thierry DAVID/SO

A feeling all the stronger because over the weeks, she felt abandoned by the public authorities. “I wrote to the prefect at the end of January, no response. To Gabriel Attal, no response. At the end of March, I met Minister Marc Fesneau, no response. I sent him a registered letter, still nothing. » And the majority agricultural union has not moved. Enough to reinforce a feeling of injustice. The comfort came from the feedback from the video posted on social networks a week ago. “I had to explain the situation, it had 1.5 million views, even Nikos Aliagas shared it and I also received support from vegetarians,” she smiles weakly.

A fight

Dejected but not on the ground, Bérénice Walton denounces the famous protocol. “It is only in France that the entire herd is slaughtered. I do not accept this medieval protocol. We must reform it. The profilaxie zone dates back twenty years and is enlarged by 15 km every year. However, so many herds are still being slaughtered. Wildlife will still be there and so will disease. For the honor of my cows, I want my herd to be the last to be slaughtered. » And to call for the creation of a vaccine – “it gave good results for avian flu”. She fights for herself but also for other breeders: “At this rate, there will be no more breeders in Gironde. »

And when we talk to him about the future, his eyes become blurry, cloudy again. “Pfff… I have one year to buy back cows, but I wouldn’t be able to resell meat [en circuit court, NDLR] before three or four years (1),” she said, waiting for compensation from the State. “The expertise took place on January 17, we still don’t know anything. » The prefecture affirms, for its part, that this compensation has been established at 600,000 euros and that the breeder will receive an advance in the coming days. The trauma is priceless.

(1) A prize pool is online on leetchi.com to help the breeder pay her bills: “Save La Ferme de Bérénice”.

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