January 29, 2024
• In a bizarre turn of events, two French activists threw soup at the iconic ‘Mona Lisa’ painting in the Louvre Museum, Paris, as a part of ongoing protests led by farmers across the country. This unusual act was carried out with the intention of raising awareness about pressing issues related to the agriculture sector and the environment. The protestors, affiliated with the “Riposte Alimentaire” movement, used this unconventional method to emphasize their demand for the social security of sustainable food.
Why was soup thrown at the Mona Lisa?
• The act was executed by activists wearing shirts bearing the inscription “Riposte Alimentaire,” a part of the larger “A22 umbrella movement” comprising protest groups across 12 countries. This movement, which includes groups like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, aims to address climate change issues and advocate for a shift away from environmentally harmful practices, such as reliance on oil. Similar tactics were witnessed in 2022 when Just Stop Oil activists threw soup on Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting in London, emphasizing the urgency of moving away from oil as a fuel source.
Farmers’ Protests in France:
• The farmers’ protests in France, marked by tractors blocking roads and waste being dumped at government offices, stem from grievances over remuneration, bureaucratic red tape, and protection against cheap imports. Beginning as early as January 18, these protests have disrupted traffic across the country, reflecting the frustration of the farming community, which constitutes around two to three percent of the French population. Farmers argue that policies targeting climate change, including increased taxes on agricultural diesel, have adversely affected their commercial interests.
Factors Contributing to Farmer Unrest:
• The impact of the Ukraine-Russia war, with EU waivers for Ukrainian exports, has intensified discontent, fostering perceptions of unfair competition in sugar, grain, and meat. Additionally, renewed negotiations for a trade deal between the EU and South American bloc Mercosur have heightened concerns about unfair competition. Farmers contend that government measures, such as increased taxes on agricultural diesel, have exacerbated their challenges.
• Facing mounting pressure, the French government has offered to ease technical procedures and progressively end diesel fuel taxes for farm vehicles. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, acknowledging the complexity of the farmers’ predicament, emphasized the need to find short, medium, and long-term solutions. He also hinted at potential “additional” measures against what he termed as “unfair competition” from countries with different production rules.
Common Ground with European Protests:
• While the farmers’ protests in France have distinct country-specific issues, they share common ground with protests in Germany, Romania, and other European nations. Environmental taxes and fuel-related concerns appear to be unifying factors, suggesting a broader discontent with EU policies.
• The soup-throwing incident at the Mona Lisa serves as an unconventional symbol of the farmers’ protests in France, drawing attention to their multifaceted grievances. As the French government grapples with finding a balance between quality and affordability in the agricultural sector, the protests echo broader concerns shared by farmers across Europe. The dynamics of these protests reflect a complex interplay of economic, environmental, and geopolitical factors that demand nuanced solutions.
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