The plateau of Larzac –located in the southern Massif Central area of France–consists of agricultural land used for sheep farming and milk production for Roquefort cheese.
In 1902, the French army established a military camp that served mostly as a training centre . On October 28, 1971, the defence minister of France, Michel Debre, announced plans to extend the military camp within the territory of Larzac from 3,000 to 17,000 hectares. The plans were revealed without prior consultation with the local population owning the farms to be affected [ibid.]. According to R. Gildea and A. Tompkins , the planned extension threatened 108 farms on which 90,000 sheep that grazed on the plateau produced 2.3 million litres of milk. Moreover, the extension of the military camp would affect dozens of French communes and one-sixth part of 100,000 hectares of the total area of Causse du Larzac . Initially, a resistance movement was formed by 103 peasants whose land was expropriated. On November 6, 1971, 66,000 activists organized by the Department of Federation of Farmers’ Unions demonstrated against the military camp extension for the first time . The intentions of peasants were not based on political motivation but rather on keeping their farms undamaged. Church leaders were also strongly against the expansion of the camp. Groups such as Chrétiens danse le Monde Rural and Jeuness Agricole Catholique promoted the use of nonviolent tactics. On November 7, the Bishop of Rodez issued a statement against the military camp extension. The next year in 1972, the movement was also supported by Lanza del Vasto, a figure inspired by Christian spirituality of non-violence, as he decided to fast in the name of peasants [ibid.].
On March 28, 103 families affected by the expansion signed an “Oath of 103”, a solidarized pledge regarding their opposition to the military base, while also promising to act in a non-violent way as well as to never sell their land under the pressure of the army. The peasants were supported by numerous political parties, social groups and unions. These groups were coordinated officially through Larzac committees to organize different forms of resistance along with the 103 families [ibid.]. From one protest to another, the local fight for Larzac began regionally to then turn national, engaging up to 100,000 people of different social groups supporting the peasants . Especially significant were the Paris marches, the first of which began on December 26, 1972, the second on December 2, 1978, and the last one on November 27, 1980. Each time the demonstrators were harassed by the police and removed from places of gatherings. Still, their influence had been noted, and support provided to them from the outside did not decrease .
Finally, in May 1980, the French Court of Appeal annulled 66 expropriation processes [ibid.]. As the last point of victory on May 10, 1981, François Mitterrand, President of the Republic, stated that the project of extension of the military camp of Larzac was abandoned. The government proposal of the military camp extension was combated with a decade of resistance formed by the local farmers as well as their supporters, which turned out to be an environmental success . Today, Larzac is renowned for its lunar landscaped, ancient pastoral civilization, which shaped the space around them as well as biodiversity which includes rare and threatened species. Examples include plants (like orchid moors, Pasque flower, Causses daffodils) as well as animals (for example, golden eagles, blue moticole, occelated lizard) .