The massacre of Europe's ancient olive groves

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They are now about to end their lives amusing the nouveau rich beside swimming pools and on golf courses. The unluckiest will be replanted as zoo-like curiosities in ornamental gardens in northern Europe, even Russia, where the cold and lack of light will turn them sterile. At the current rate of uprooting, these majestic and viable olive trees, many hundreds of years old, some even a thousand years old, will have entirely disappeared from southern Portugal and Spain in the space of a generation. Philippe Riès reports on an ecological and cultural disaster caused by the perverse effects of European Union agricultural policies.

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They are the captured living trophies of an ancient past, sitting like armless giants, chained to the backs of flatbed trucks heading north on the main roads leaving Spain and Portugal. These majestic olive trees, many hundreds of years old, some even a thousand years old, are the last survivors of a rural culture rooted in the Roman colonisation of the Iberian peninsula.