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Chickens in lucky escape as barns are burnt down by suspected anti-cruelty activists

media Chickens being raised in a farm in Vielle-Soubiran in the south west of France. ©AFP/IROZ GAIZKA

More than 2000 square metres of property belonging to a chicken farmer was devasted by a deliberate fire in the Orne region of France on Tuesday evening, with with the words "death camp" and "killers" scrawled on the walls by the perpetrators.

The three enormous barns for holding chickens were empty at the time of the fire, n anticipation of a delivery of chicks.

Neighbouring farmers and several local MPs gathered on Wednesday to show their support to Emmauel Prévost, who was woken by his dog barking in the night, only to find his farm burnt to the ground.

Around 30 fire fighters were called to the farm in Charencey, in Normandel village and a police inquiry has been opened.

"I've lost everything," Prévost declared to AFP, estimating the damages between 500,000 and one million euros.

The trade union known as the Young Farmers of Orne (Jeunes agriculteurs de l'Orne) have expressed their anger over the incident on Facebook, and said that people wearing masks were seen in the vicinity of the attack.

They have defended the farmer in question, saying he had always been open to dialogue, and had participated in open days to explain his profession to the public.

"This farmer has already been targeted in attacks like these," said Alexis Graindorge, president of the farmers' union, in an interview to Ouest France local newspaper.

"His farm has already been singled out by activists from anti animal cruelty groups," he said.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the national federation of farmers slammed what they described as "an alarming rise in violence against farmers, all the more insidious because they are planned attacks, which accentuates the stress felt across the sector."

They say these acts have gone on for too long unpunished and the government needs to be firm in deterring others from carrying out similar attacks.

Last September, butchers' and livestock farmers' representatives complained of similar attacks by vegan activists on businesses in the meat trade, following an arson attack on a slaughterhouse in eastern France.

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