France’s refusal to ban Sunday hunting angers anti-hunt campaigners

Tougher sentences to be imposed for those causing accidents but activists dismiss alcohol ban as ‘laughable’

The French government has angered anti-hunt campaigners after refusing to ban hunting on Sundays during the season.

Instead, it has declared a ban on drinking alcohol and taking drugs while hunting, a move activists say is unenforceable, and will set up a voluntary application for hunters to indicate where they are active.

Bérangère Couillard, the ecology minister, said hunt organisers would be required to undergo training and there would be tougher sentences for those convicted of causing an accident.

The government bowed to pressure to address hunt safety after a senate inquiry prompted by the death of Morgan Keane, 25, a French-British man shot dead in December 2020 while chopping wood on his land by a hunter who mistook him for a wild boar.

The hunter who fired the fatal shot, Julien Féral, was on trial along with the hunt organiser Laurent Lapergue, 51, in November on charges of manslaughter. A verdict is expected on Thursday.

Anti-hunt campaigners had called for at least one non-hunting day a week during the season and were optimistic the government, though broadly sympathetic to the powerful hunting lobby, would agree.

According to figures published in September 2022 by the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), which issues hunting permits, there were 90 accidents during the 2021-22 season, six more than the previous season, eight of them fatal.

Over the past 20 years, 88% of the victims of hunting accidents have been hunters themselves. As the government prepared on Monday to announce measures to make hunting safer, it was reported an 84-year-old hunter fatally shot himself in Corsica while putting his gun away in his car. Two other accidents were reported at the weekend involving two hunters, one 19 years old and the other 67.

However, the number of non-hunt bystanders or passersby injured has increased from 12% to 26% of the total over the last two decades, according to OFB figures.

“For the very great majority, they [the accidents] are the result of human errors linked to a failure to respect the basic security rules,” the OFB said.

In October 2021, Joël Viard, 67, was killed when a hunter’s stray bullet hit him in the neck as he drove along a motorway from Rennes to Nantes. The hunter is under investigation for manslaughter.

In February 2022, a hunter’s stray bullet killed Mélodie Cauffet, 25, who was walking with a friend on a forest path in Aveyron.

Before Monday’s announcement, the French bird protection league (LPO) told the government it would face an outcry if it failed to take into account anger at fatalities linked to hunting. It said the alcohol ban was “laughable”.

“If the hunting security plan ends up being a few little measures like banning hunting while drunk – which is the least it could do – or the idea of a voluntary mobile application for hunters to announce where they are, the government will hugely disappoint the four out of five French people who want a hunting-free Sunday,” Matthieu Orphelin, the director general of the LPO, told Le Monde.

Couillard said the government’s aim was “move towards zero accidents”, an aim the head of France’s National Federation of Hunters, Willy Schraen, has said is an impossibility.

“Half of all hunters should be trained between now and 2025 and all by 2029,” Couillard told journalists.

Schraen had warned there would be “fire and brimstone” across the countryside if the government bowed to activists’ demands for no-hunting days.

An Ipsos poll in September found 81% of French people were for a ban on hunting two days a week during the season and throughout the school holidays; 87% of people questioned said hunting was a risk to the safety of people out walking.

Muriel Arnal, the president of the animal rights association One Voice, said there was a “huge gulf between these small measures, that will do nothing to resolve the [hunting] problem, and the expectations of the French people”.

She added that the government had showed “a lack of understanding of the reality of hunting, a leisure activity that puts the lives of people who aren’t taking part in danger”.

Couillard had argued there was no evidence banning hunting on Sunday would reduce the number of accidents.

Mila Sanchez, a co-founder of the association Un jour un chasseur, and a friend of Keane, disagreed. “The figures on which the minister is relying only take into account fatal accidents of non-hunters” – that is, hunting accidents in which non-hunters were killed. “We have compiled articles about 83 accidents during the 2022-2023 season and the results show that 57 happened at the weekend, 39 of them on Sundays,” Sanchez said.

The organisation tweeted: “Bravo to the government for putting in place completely useless measures”.

  • This article was amended on 10 January 2023. An earlier version reported Mila Sanchez as saying OFB figures do not take into account fatal accidents. This has been corrected to say the figures take into account only hunting accidents fatal to non-hunters.


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Not all traditions are good’: lethal accidents deepen French hunting divide
Anti-hunt activists say tragedies are too high a price to pay for one of France’s most popular activities

Kim Willsher in Charny-Orée-de-Puisaye

02, Jan, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
French hunter who killed man after ‘mistaking him for boar’ goes on trial
Calls for crackdown on hunt safety during trial of Julien Féral, who shot dead man outside home near Toulouse

Kim Willsher in Cahors

17, Nov, 2022 @11:49 AM

Article image
Malta rejects spring bird hunting ban
Joseph Muscat, Malta’s prime minister, says hunters have been given a last chance after a proposed ban is narrowly defeated in referendum

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome

12, Apr, 2015 @5:13 PM

Article image
Ban on hunting birds with lead shot in EU wetlands hailed as ‘huge milestone’
Law comes into force in 30 countries in move campaigners hope will stop an estimated 1m waterbirds a year dying of lead poisoning

Phoebe Weston

15, Feb, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Romania bans trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats
Unexpected move reverses a trend that has seen increasing numbers of large carnivores shot by hunters each year since Romania’s accession to the European Union

Luke Dale-Harris

05, Oct, 2016 @3:08 PM

Article image
Curiosity killed the wolf – and fuelled an anti-hunting petition in Canada
Artists and campaigners work to ensure the life and death of the lone sea wolf known as Takaya was not wasted

Leyland Cecco

22, Dec, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
Zimbabwean authorities hunt Spaniard accused of killing Cecil the lion
European allegedly paid €50,000 for chance to kill tourist attraction, who was found headless after being shot with a bow and arrow and tracked for 40 hours

Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

26, Jul, 2015 @11:01 AM

Article image
Three people injured over weekend in latest hunting incidents in France
Two men shot and another hit by lead pellets amid fierce debate over issue and resistance to alcohol ban

Kim Willsher in Paris

28, Nov, 2022 @10:32 AM

Article image
'Heavenly' Italian beach to charge entry fee to cut overcrowding
Thousands of visitors who flock to La Pelosa in Sardinia pose threat to its ecosystem

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

12, Nov, 2019 @12:13 PM

Article image
France and Japan propose an 'IPCC for nature'
Delegates from 97 countries meet in South Korea to hear plans for an international body to monitor destruction of flora and fauna

Juliette Jowit

09, Jun, 2010 @2:39 PM