On Saturday afternoon, a friend and I went to the much talked about Salon d’Agriculture which takes place every year at the humongous exhibition centre at Porte de Versailles.
We made one grave mistake: We didn’t realise that we were going on the day before the whole shebang ended, so we casually strolled up in the middle of the afternoon unfortunately the world and his wife had got there before us.
It was great to see such a huuuuuge array of food stalls with each main area of France and the rest of the world being well-represented, eco-friendly products, agricultural machinery (everything from a milking machine to a combine harvester), animal competitions, you name it. However, it was packed, too packed; we saw sheep in their paddocks without a huge amount of room in which to move around, so that some of them had their noses next to the slats which were less than an inch away from the legs of passers-by. The Normandy cows and their calves were placed right next to a burger stall, and some of the goats were in desperate need of milking. We also noticed that nearly all the sheep had their horns cut off; it seemed that this was standard procedure as there was a huge variety of sheep from all around France. After doing some research, (I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this before) it seems that this is the norm with most countries in the EU. The horns of the sheep and rams are ‘disbudded’ as opposed to ‘dehorned’ at around 2 months of age, because at this time, it is vastly less painful as the horn buds are ‘free floating’ and are therefore not attached to the skull.
‘Dehorning’ or ‘disbudding’ takes place for the following reasons: To make it easier for the handlers, to prevent horns growing or curling into the head, to prevent them being broken or splintered in any other way, or to prevent being caught in fences or vegetation. So there you have it, I felt about the animals here in the same way I feel about animals in circuses, from the teeny paddocks to the ‘Best Reproductive Animal’ competitions: put them back in the fresh air with fresh hay while you can.
On the other side of the expo park was a bio and zero waste products hall, complete with cosmetics, toiletries, socks, insoles, jumpers, you name it. We went up to an epilating stall (you gotta start somewhere) to see how they managed it without electricity or wasteful packaging, and the saleswoman produced the softest sandpaper you’ve ever encountered, rubbed it on a small patch on our arm, and it was ridiculously soft! It’s good for two years, no soap or water required and biodegradable packaging. Sold. I must emphasise, all the products we saw were all made in France form natural materials, brilliant.
It’s not surprising that the Salon d’Agriculture was such a huge event that covered all 7 football-pitch sized halls, as France is the only agriculturally self-sufficient country in Europe! This of course makes its citizens prouder than a farmer at the end of a good harvest so come hell or high water they’re going to make the trip to gay Paree to see the crème de la crop.
The food halls were seriously impressive, I was happy to see that Brittany were given such a huge amount of space, complete with fishermen in oilies playing accordions and singing mighty sea shanties. We found some organic sorbet and ice-cream and gosh darnit I missed it. So blueberry, noisette and rum and raisin happened, and it was brilliant. Each of France’s colonies; Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mauritius, Corsica etc. all had beyoooootiful stalls but as it was the last full day of the expo, it was the last opportunity for really good quality rum and so unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to sample the produce.
All in all it was an eye-opening view into how truly self-sufficient France and its colonies are when it comes to the world of agriculture, and how they take pride in every part of the process from the grass that’s grown to the food which is served. From the products which are made on its soil using natural materials, to producing a non-wasteful final product. I just would have liked to have gone on any other day, and I could have done without seeing so many cooped up cows, bulls, sheep and rams. We’ll do ‘Take Two’ next year.