Bouquet of Barbed Wire

Cows knee-deep in mud
Cows knee-deep in mud

During our weekly walk with our walking group this Wednesday, we were horrified to come upon a cat entangled in a bundle of barbed wire. Fortunately, several walkers’ dogs barking alerted us, otherwise we might have passed by without noticing, since it was in the corner of a field behind a wall.

The SF, who was wearing thick leather gloves, tried to untangle the poor cat but she was held fast by a wire that had wound itself around her fur and partly into her skin. The more he untangled, the more she struggled, hissed and bit, threatening to entwine herself even more. Luckily, someone had a sharp Opinel knife, with which he sawed at her fur until she was released. Then she shot off over the field, shocked but apparently none the worse for wear.

I didn’t have my camera with me and, anyway, I would have felt it in rather bad taste to publicise the animal’s pain and misfortune; except that this sort of thing is typical of some farmers’ practices around here. I fully accept that they need to fence their fields to keep cattle in – although some of them aren’t very good at that (see below) – but leaving tangles of barbed wire lying around for animals to step in is just plain irresponsible. If we hadn’t come along, the cat would no doubt have died a slow and painful death.

Many of the farmers in the neighbourhood are responsible, look after their animals properly and try not to poison the environment. But, inevitably, there are exceptions. One of them is the bane of our lives – and everybody else’s. He is a maquignon (literally a horse trader but they use the term for cattle traders, too). He buys cattle, fattens them up and sells them. And a motley bunch they are, too.

He has cattle everywhere around the district – sometimes in the least suitable places. For example, he keeps some in a wood down our lane, which is like the battlefield of the Somme. The poor things are up to their bellies in mud and have very little space to roam around in. I appreciate it’s difficult to avoid mud in the countryside in winter, but even so…

The Somme? No, SW France
The Somme? No, SW France

Moreover, his cows are constantly getting out. His fences are normally a strand of electric wire so high that the calves can get under it without ducking. The cows pursue them, followed by the bull. They were continually getting into our garden and trampling everything down. The last straw came when we noticed a rent in our swimming pool winter cover one Christmas Eve. Underneath, floating about in the water was a drowned calf. The farmer came and hoiked out the poor thing with his tractor.

Water trough surrounded by a sea of mud
Water trough surrounded by a sea of mud – pathetic strand of electric fence just visible in front

His insurance paid us for a new winter cover. His insurers told him he had to sort out his fences. Did he? What do you think? Instead, we had our property fenced and gated at considerable cost to ourselves. But the point of this tale is that the whole thing was so unnecessary. If he looked after his animals properly and fenced his fields adequately, they wouldn’t get out and cause death to themselves and extreme aggro to the neighbours. It’s a miracle that they haven’t caused a road accident yet.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t care. This sort of laissez faire attitude led to the cat’s torment in the barbed wire. That cat had a lucky escape. How many other animals haven’t?

Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. I was surprised, and saddened to hear animal rights are less than appropriate in France. Such a beautiful country, letting itself down with this issue. You are right to highlight it!
    As always, your beautiful words and images take me to your neck of the woods without the effort of a long flight… thank you!


  2. There is no denying the rural French don’t, for the most part, have a very caring attitude to animals. We see evidence of this regularly and it makes my blood boil. In the UK, I would be phoning the RSPC, but here the SPA seems pretty useless and anyway, so few people appear bothered about animal welfare. It’s a very serious downside to living in this otherwise (mostly) wonderful country.


    • They do seem to have a different attitude. Often it’s not deliberate cruelty, more thoughtlessness – although maybe the result is often the same. We have some other elderly neighbours who have a dog that they love dearly but he has never been properly trained and never gets taken for a walk. You do hear some horror stories, too. As you say, it is a downside of living here.


  3. Same here, but thank God he has gone off with another woman, far from here, to a city:) No more suffering for his animals I am pleased to say.


  4. I can certainly relate to the problems with your neighbour and his animals! On our small Caribbean island, we have the same problems with goat/sheep/cattle farmers. Its illegal to let them roam, but everyone does it anyway, as local Govt cant get anyone to accept position of animal control officer as it would invariably mean pissing off some farmers, by forcing them to pay a fine to recover their wandering herds. So they wander free destroying gardens, crops etc. And to make it worse, the herders also periodically throw poison food into the yards of everyone in their area who owns a dog, as some dogs (mostly feral ones) ‘trouble their animals’. Two of our three dogs were killed this way a few months ago, and the 3rd one who barely survived was poisoned again this past weekend…and again barely survived. And she is a yard dog, never leaves our fenced garden.


    • I’m so sorry to hear about your dogs. That’s awful. Hunters around here have a tendency to shoot cats on site since they claim the cats kill the rabbits. Fortunately, around us has been a réserve de chasse for more than 3 years and they aren’t allowed to hunt up here. So for the moment our cat is safe from them. Farmers are a powerful lobby here and are allowed to get away with things that we aren’t.


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