French police are investigating an unprecedented series of horse killings, which have seen a number of animals mutilated across the country.
A recent case in Cortambert, a village in the central-eastern department of Saone-et-Loire, on Friday involved a horse which had its right ear cut off, one of its eyes gouged out and its genitals cut away.
A local official told Reuters that the unexplained attack was “absolutely barbaric”.
There have been about 10 similar cases across France since the start of the year, often occurring in the north of the country, according to a Paris police spokesperson.
The spokesperson said there had also been cases between 2014 and 2016, with similar killings and mutilations reported in Belgium and Germany, but the recent spike in incidents in France was extremely unusual. “We do not understand the motivation. Is it a satanic rite, insurance fraud, some macabre trophy hunt or an internet challenge? We don’t know. It is very traumatizing,” they said.
The attacks have involved different types of horses, as well as one donkey, with mutilation of an ear being a common factor, the spokesperson added. It was also revealed that no meat had been taken from the carcasses of the animals.
On Tuesday, local media reported that the regional Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Horse Council had called on all farmers and residents in areas where horses are kept to be “vigilant” over inappropriate or suspicious behavior. “Since the end of 2018, all over France, but also in border countries, very different equines have been the target of barbaric attacks of human origin and have been found dead and mutilated,” the council said in a statement, as reported by Le Bien Public.
It said witnesses should not intervene directly if they see something suspicious for their own safety but should contact police with any evidence which could help to identify the perpetrators. “It is the mobilization of the greatest number that will put an end to these despicable acts,” the council added.
Cruelty to animals is punishable in France with up to two years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 30,000 euros.