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Protests as French farmer fined €100,000 over smelly and noisy cows

The farmer now faces financial difficulties and has hit back at the decision, saying ‘the noise and the smell of my cows are country nuisances, but nothing abnormal’

A French dairy farmer is facing financial difficulties after being sued by his neighbours over the noise and smell of his cows. Picture is representative Pic: sw_photo / Shutterstock

Over 200 people have turned out to support a French dairy farmer who was fined €102,000 after six of his neighbours took him to court because of the noise and smell caused by his cows. 

Vincent Verschuere, who owns a small farm in Saint-Aubin-en-Bray (Oise), north of Paris, lost a court appeal in March after an initial 2018 decision by the tribunal de Beauvais found him guilty of “troubles anormaux de voisinage”, meaning nuisance to neighbours. 

A protest in support of the farmer took place in his local village yesterday (May 6), with the head of France’s national farming union, the FNSEA, in attendance. 

“On behalf of all French farmers… We do not accept that such a decision could jeopardise a farm,” Christiane Lambert stated. 

Mr Verschuere’s dispute with his neighbours has been ongoing for around 10 years

They complain that his 260 cows cause too much noise and smell. Mr Verschuere has said that it is just life in the countryside. 

“The noise and the smell of my cows are country nuisances, but nothing abnormal. Otherwise our countryside has to be sanitised,” he told RMC

His farm is situated close to neighbouring houses, but Mr Verschuere claims it is legally acceptable. He said he had to build a large barn to accommodate his cows, according to European standards. 

Because of the proximity to neighbouring residents, he said he had to get a special exemption to be allowed to build it as he did not possess any land that was at least 100 metres away from other dwellings. He said this permission was granted. 

“The building was built, and then six local residents got together to attack us,” he said. 

He is still paying back loan repayments of around €600,000 for the construction of the barn.

“It is not materially possible to pay the loan plus the fine of €102,000 and other investments,” he said. 

He said that the court decision is “more a condemnation of agriculture than a condemnation of my farm”.

“In the Oise area, 40% of farmers are under a distance exemption, given that our farms have been in the heart of the villages for generations,” he said. 

The neighbours who took Mr Verschuere to court have not shared their views with the media.

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