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Noxious algae kills horse, say activists

FRENCH environmental groups have blamed intensive farming for a build-up of noxious algae that killed a horse and caused its rider to collapse on a beach in Brittany earlier this month.

Environmentalists have demanded action after Vincent Petit, a vet, had to be dragged unconscious from a meter-deep patch of rotting algae after his horse collapsed and died from fumes given off by the heaped up sludge.

An autopsy carried out on the horse indicated that gases given off by algae blighting over 80 sites in Brittany killed the animal.

Petit's lawyer has started legal action against "an unknown person" and environmental groups campaigning against intensive farming practices have joined in the battle.

"We demand that authorities warn communities about the dangers, forbid the rearing of animals near to the coast and seek to install only organic farming in the area," said Andre Ollivro, a spokesman for Stop the Green Slicks.

Ollivro said farms released chemicals used in animal feed in water supplies which cause rotting algae washed up on beaches to give off toxic gases, and blamed local authorities for failing to take tough action against farmers.

Authorities would not confirm that the gases from the algae killed the horse, but said they had made efforts to minimize the level of agriculture in the area and to reduce quantities of farming refuse released into the sea.

Mayors at some towns in Brittany have spent more than 100,000 euros (US$141,900) per year to remove the algae.

But scientists said there was no widespread danger.

"This is not a systematic problem, and there is no need for tourists to stay away from the region," said Jean-Francois Sassi, a scientist at the Center for the Study and Evaluation of Algae in Brittany.


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