A mob of 200 angry French farmers hijacked a convoy of seven lorries carrying fish from the Highlands to the continent.
Drivers were threatened, their trucks smashed open and cargoes worth £200,000 were destroyed in the terrifying incident.
Their three-hour ordeal started when they were herded into a roadblock trap in Brittany in the north-west of France.
Farm vehicles, bales of hay and tyres had been to create a makeshift barrier on the main route used by Lochinver-based Hunter Transport to ferry fish from Sutherland to Lorient.
The mob swarmed over the trucks and used forklifts to pull fish boxes on to the road.
They then destroyed 140 tonnes of food valued at about £200,000 by breaking open the boxes and pouring diesel over them.
The fish convoy was caught up in a national French crisis over food prices in which striking farmers – angry about cheap foreign imports – have gone to the extreme of challenging any trucks from abroad believed to be carrying food.
In the past week, rioters have dumped manure in cities and fish outside supermarkets as well as blocking stretches of the route between Caen and Lorient.
The farmers involved in the incident with the north lorry drivers were oblivious to the fact that their fish was actually caught by a French trawler.
Two French lorries carrying beef were also ambushed and their cargo burned on the road.
The truckers had teamed-up to avoid one blockade, slipping on to a back road before rejoining a main route, but then ran into another barricade where about 200 farmers threatened them.
Driver Gordon Ramsay, 40, from Invergordon, attempted to fight off between six and eight Frenchmen who encircled him to seize his documents.
Mr Ramsay, who works for Ross-shire based J&D Cowper, said: “It was intimidating because you didn’t know what was going to happen. We couldn’t really do much, there were only seven of us.
“A few of the drivers said they’ll just torch the lorries, if need be. Two of the other drivers tried to get them off me.
“I grappled with six to eight farmers. They had a hold of me to try to get my documents. My left arm was sore, but that’s it.
“They didn’t understand why there were Scottish lorries. We tried to tell them it was French fish, from a French boat for a French market. But all the seven loads just got emptied onto the road.”
Kyle Fraser, 53, from Inverness, witnessed similar shocking scenes in the early 1990s while working for an Aberdeenshire firm when French farmers hijacked British trucks and famously burned their cargoes of beef and lamb.
He was stopped at Ploermel en route to Lorient.
Mr Fraser managed to contact the French customer on his mobile phone to talk to protesters who then let him through.
He said: “I was the only truck that got through. I was lucky, I guess. When I was stopped the farmers were emptying two French trucks.
“The seven who got trapped had tried to avoid the blockade but ran into another one.”
Hunter Transport takes up to 15 wagons of deep-sea fish to Brittany each week.
It is understood that the French fishing vessel docked at Lochinver whose catch was destroyed is making a claim against the French government.
The owner of Hunter Transport said last night that the scenes in Brittany were a “disgrace”.
Sam Hunter said: “They put our drivers at risk. It’s a sad situation.
“I understand the strikers’ frustration. There are a lot of cheap exports of beef, pork and milk, and farmers are getting low payments for their product.
“Unfortunately, they’ve taken the law into their own hands.
“They’ve closed roads off and jammed them with tractors. There’s nothing we can do when there are 400 farmers standing there, with tractors and shovels, in the way of our seven drivers. We just had to stand back and hold our hands up.
“The police were there but told us they couldn’t do anything about it. Hopefully this blockade will be over soon. If not, there’ll be no lorries going from Scotland.”
Michael Cowper, general manager of J&D Cowper which had two drivers caught up in the drama, said: “We’re fortunate that the drivers weren’t harmed because it was pretty aggressive at first.
“It’s insane, crazy, bizarre. I don’t see what the farmers hoped to gain from doing something like this.
“Even if it was a British product, I can’t see how this sort of action would help their cause.
“It’s almost like France is imploding. God forbid anything like it happens in this country. It would be a disaster.”