On May 20, 2017, in the small town of Sailly Burgundy, Burgundy, a police officer fired three shots at Jérôme Laronze, two of them in the back. The rancher died instantly. He was on the run for nine days. Once again, a harassing inspection was carried out in his company, which he evaded. With his skipping action, the 37-year-old wanted to draw attention to the fate of numerous colleagues who are going through the same thing.
In her film, Gabrielle Culand reconstructs the chronicle of an announced death. Neighbors, colleagues and friends of Jérôme Laronze provide insights into the situation of rural farms and the imbalance in agricultural policy. In order to increase international competitiveness, the EU mainly subsidizes large companies. French farmers are forced to expand. However, their farms mostly remain one-man businesses.
As a result, work takes over. Relationships fall apart. Suicidal thoughts intensify. In France – and in many other countries – the suicide rate among farmers is about 50% higher than in other professional groups. Jérôme Laronze actually wanted to end his life voluntarily. He wanted to hang himself in front of the luxurious property of an agricultural functionary who had blackmailed him. But then a free-roaming horse appeared and approached him.
It was at that moment that Laronze abandoned his suicide plan. Two colleagues had already hung themselves. This had made him angry, so he decided to fight: against the bureaucracy. Since the BSE crisis, ranchers have had to record the birth and death of every cow in great detail. A farmer explains in front of the camera why this administrative effort is not only expensive. He manages a workload that is almost impossible to cope with. Small businesses are being driven into ruin.
Especially organic farmers like Jérôme Laronze, who rely on sustainability and ecological quality from the region, have no chance in the EU administrative apparatus. Meanwhile, the regulations for imported beef from overseas are not nearly as strict: the inequality makes farmers’ faces flush with anger in front of the camera. A busy activist who was extremely popular with colleagues, Jérôme Laronze had long protested against this Kafkaesque system. Archive films show him as a down-to-earth man who was obviously working with his hands.
In a nuanced report he sent to a local newspaper, Laronze described how officers, under armed police protection, inspected his farm for the second time in 2017. Examiners tried to document the number of his animals. They were so clumsy that cows panicked and trampled each other to death. “I was always polite and treated the inspectors with respect,” Laronze told a local journalist over the phone. “But on that day the anger of the righteous got away with me.” First on the tractor, later in the car, he went on the run. In this way he wanted to publicize the situation of the farmers. Is Laronze a French Rambo of cattle breeders? no way. He was “an affable guy who had never been criminally conspicuous.” In France, the former spokesman for the Saône-et-Loire farmers’ union is considered a martyr. A movie about his fate is currently being made. The documentary about Laronze affects and closes a gap. Because in this country nobody reported about him.