The activists - three women and one man aged between 23 and 39 - have been dubbed "anti-speciesist", a term denoting that they are against using “other species” as food.
Two were handed closed prison sentences; one for 10 months, and one for six months. Each will follow their closed prison time with a further suspended sentence of eight months and nine months respectively.
Two others were given suspended sentences for six months.
Une boucherie située dans le vieux Lille a été vandalisée et taguée « Stop au spécisme ». Une action attribuée à des militants de la cause vegan par sa responsable https://t.co/RAZlcGPnOg #viande #vandalisme #vegetarien #militant #Lille pic.twitter.com/OgmbcPI4ef— Elodie MiamMiam (@lemiammiamblog) May 18, 2018
Windows were smashed, buildings were set alight, and some walls were tagged with graffiti. The establishments were targeted because they sell meat, or were suspected of selling real fur and other products derived from animals.
Activists covered their faces during the attacks. Some establishments were targeted twice.
Lawyer for the damaged establishments, Me Damien Legrand, said: “The court, in its motivations, was clear on the dangerous character of the individuals.” He warned that the risk of these individuals re-offending was high.
But lawyer for the accused, Me Muriel Ruef, said: “These sentences take into account the regrets expressed [by the accused], and the personalities that we have seen by those who committed these acts within a militant context, but who are are not such dangerous people that they require [totally closed] detention.”
Marianne Celka, sociologist and researcher from Montpellier, commenting on the case for news source FranceInfo, said that the sentences would be unlikely to deter other radical activists.
She said: “This will create a symbol for militant [activists] and those who feel attacked. These symbolic sentences will also serve to confirm to activists that the fight is necessary, and [those jailed] may make themselves spokespeople or martyrs for the animal cause.”
Ms Celka added that there was a difference between militant protesters and activists, with the former more likely to take direct, physical action against targets; and the latter more likely to try other, more peaceful means of protest via wider networks and organically organised groups.
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