Destroying to Exist: French Milk Strikes in 1964, 1972, and 2009

Special Report: Representing Farmers
By Édouard Lynch

In the fall of 2009, a wave of demonstrations by French farmers predominantly took the form of a milk strike. The destruction of a significant quantity of milk, spread over fields or dumped in slurry tanks, typified the strike and drew considerable media coverage. Beyond the sought-after effects of shock and attracting attention, such practices are in line with a long history of constructing a specific repertory of action within the agricultural world, observable over the three milk strikes of the last half-century. The forms of action deployed in 1964, 1972, and 2009 reflect the transformation of economic and union power relations and the necessity of taking actions of increasing visibility. The decisive importance of media access, television in particular, in implementing collective mobilizations leads us to highlight the changes that have taken place in systems of agricultural and farmer representation, and how they are used by professional and media actors.

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