In at least 30 separate incidents, with the earliest one dating back to February, knife-bearing attackers with apparent in-depth knowledge of horses and their anatomy, have sneaked into stables and pastures across France at night and dismembered the poor animals, French media reported.
"There is clearly a professionalism, people acting with a certain level of technique", Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said on Friday, pledging to bring those behind the repeated horrid attacks to justice.
In most cases, the horses’ ears were cut off, similarly to bulls’ in Spanish bullfights for matadors to show off their trophies. Having fulfilled the atrocious act – not only on horses, but ponies and donkeys alike - the perpetrators occasionally took parts of bone or the animals’ noses with them.
In one case as early as last week, a mare was found disembowelled next to a pony with a ripped ear at a pasture in south-eastern France.
"Ears are cut off, eyes removed, an animal is emptied of its blood..." Denormandie said during a visit to a stable in central France where a horse was recently attacked.
As the president of the French Equestrian Federation, Serge Lecomte, told news agency AFP, the attacks are “cruel savagery of a kind we have rarely seen before".
"Is it a cult?” he queried pointing out that cruelty vis-a-vis animals is “the precursor to cruelty towards humans”.
Police are still completely in the dark as to who could be behind the bloodshed, despite the head of a horse riding centre coming across two attackers last week.
Burgundy-based Nicolas Demajean said he suspected something wrong when he heard his pigs squeal. As he went to check out for himself, he bumped into two people. He was stabbed by one assailant, while the second one slashed at the sides of two ponies, which are now recovering from the traumas, Demajean recounted to regional TV station France 3.
"I used to have confidence putting my horses out to pasture. Today, I have fear in my gut", he shared.