Militants for the French league for the protection of birds received more than ruffled feathers on Monday when they came under attack from a spade-wielding local in underpants, reports The Telegraph.
The violent Y-front assault occurred after the bird lovers launched a sting operation to free protected chaffinches from illegal traps.
"Slipgate", as the incident has become known from the French word for pants, swiftly went viral on the internet, spawning a flurry of spoof tweets, with the unnamed assailant depicted shovel in hand at the Berlin Wall or wielding a light sabre.
“It all started so well,” according to Le Figaro newspaper, which recounted how members of France’s league for the protection of birds (LPO), accompanied by a group of journalists, launched a bid to free chaffinches illegally trapped in a corn field in the Landes, western France.
The bird is a protected species since 1976 but many French hunters flout rules to catch and eat what they consider a delicacy.
After successfully saving a first batch of birds, they moved to a second location, when a furious local armed with a spade and wearing little more than his underpants, came rushing out of his house and proceeded to attack the group, shouting Gallic expletives as he went.
“It was very violent. Around four or five us got whacked three or four times with a spade,” said Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, LPO president and among those who came under attack. A second local joined in with a “farming tool” in a 15-minute onslaught that ended in slashed tyres, broken camera equipment and light wounding.
However, on the plus side for the activists, around 20 chaffinches were liberated.
The bird enthusiasts filed a legal complaint for assault while the unnamed “pants attacker” said he would also press for charges for trespassing on private property.
The surreal assault swiftly prompted a flurry of mockery on social media.
One photo featured “pants man” at the leaning tower of Pisa, with his spade transformed into a selfie stick.