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French farmers arrested in protest against 1,750-cow factory farm

Activists opposed to the construction of a 1,750-cow dairy farm in Normandy, 12 September 2013. AFP/Philippe Huguen

French police were holding five farming union activists on Thursday after a protest against the construction of a massive dairy farm that would be home to nearly 2,000 cows in Normandy. 

Just weeks before the farm's dairy is due to start opeation, 50 farmers from all over France arrived at the site, intending to dismantle the giant milking machine, designed to milk 1,000 cows three times a day.

Public prosecutor Bernard Farret said that five activists, including the spokesperson of the Confédération Paysanne union, Laurent Pinatel, were held in custody on theft and vandalism charges.

According to the union, the "factory farm" is a symbol of industrial agriculture which is killing small farmers' livelihoods.

The protest received support from Green party, EELV.

"This factory farm goes against animal welfare, the environment and sustainable development," in the region, a party statement said.

Construction magnate Michel Ramery plans to open the farm this spring.

The farm will house 1,750 cows in one 234-metre barn.