French riders protest over tax, saying horses will suffer
By Thierry Chiarello
PARIS (Reuters) - Thousands of horse-lovers paraded their animals through central Paris on Sunday in a protest against a planned sales tax rise they say will put riding centers out of business and send horses to the slaughterhouse.
The protest by riders from across France came a day after unions in the western region of Brittany organized a march for jobs and social protection attended by thousands, one of many in the region in recent weeks.
Anger at taxation, unemployment stuck at 11 percent and sluggish economic growth has sent thousands of people into the streets across the country over the past two months.
On Thursday, farmers blocked roads around Paris with tractors to protest against a so-called "eco-tax" on road freight and the planned sales tax.
Organizers of Sunday's protest say the EU-mandated rise of France's VAT to 20 percent as of January 1 - from the 7 percent reduced rate paid by equestrian centers today - will shut down a fifth of centers across France.
Some 6,000 jobs will be lost, they estimate, and 80,000 horses will have to be sent to slaughter.
"Riders, up in arms!" shouted protesters carrying signs reading "Sales tax at 20 percent - Death of Horses and Ponies".