The French government has opened a racism investigation after a far-right magazine compared the country's black justice minister to a monkey on its cover.

In a statement Wednesday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he had brought Minute magazine to the attention of the Paris prosecutor, citing French law that forbids racist abuse.

The magazine described Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as "crafty as a monkey" and referred obliquely to an incident when she was greeted by racist taunts from a young girl at a recent protest against gay marriage in the western city of Angers. She was also compared to a monkey on the Facebook page of a candidate for the right-wing National Front party.