Several studies have shown that livestock, particularly cattle, are affected by even low level electromagnetic fields
A group of French cattle farmers is suing the state over the mysterious death of hundreds of cows, which they believe are the victims of harmful electromagnetic fields.
Local vets are at a loss to explain the deaths.
Stéphane Le Béchec, 51, a Breton farmer in Allneuc, has lost 200 cows who died of unknown causes in the past three years and is closing his business.
He has identified several potentially harmful sources, including a transformer, mobile transmission towers and wind farms whose electric currents he says blight his land. “I noted that the voltmetre reacted strongly when I stuck it in the ground or in water,” he told Le Parisien.`
He has filed a legal complaint against “persons unknown” with the local prosecutor.
Patrick Le Néchet, another farmer in nearby Prénessaye, has lost 120 cows in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past five years.
“This week, he found a dead calf by its mother. Sometimes we find three in one go. We never know what we’ll find,” he said.
“We also have had blind calves with holes in their heads and deformed limbs that end up going round in circles and banging their heads on the walls,” he added. Others can no longer walk or refuse to be milked and produce very little, as well as bullocks that are stunted.
The local agricultural chamber referred him to a geobiologist who noted that the water on his property carried a high amount of electricity, potentially linked to a neighbour’s photovoltaic station.
These are far from isolated cases, with ten registered in Brittany alone in the past two years. In two, the deaths started after the installation of wind farms. Others have been registered in Normandy and the Sarthe.
“They let farmers die when they have known there is a problem for the past 25 years and it’s getting worse,” said retired farmer Serge Provost, who told Le Parisien that the geology of the local soil and its conductivity is not sufficiently taken into account when installing high-tension pylons and other electrical devices.
A group of concerned farmers met on Friday in Le Mans to launch legal action demanding state compensation.
The French government first ordered a study into the potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic fields on livestock in 1998, which proved inconclusive.
Several recent scientific studies in other countries suggest that dairy cows are sensitive to earth currents, which can have negative health effects on them.
Last year, an analysis of 97 studies by the EU-funded review body EKLIPSE concluded that electromagnetic radiation from power lines, wi-fi, phone masts and broadcast transmitters poses a ‘credible’ threat to wildlife – in particular to insect and bird orientation and plant health.
However the charity Buglife warned that despite good evidence of the harms there was little research ongoing to assess the impact, or apply pollution limits.
“There is a real problem that we need to deal with,” said Claude Allo, president of a French working group tasked by agricultural chambers to look into the issue.