Hunters drafted in to back up police in French countryside

An unprecedented but controversial partnership has been launched in northern France that will see 200 hunters helping out French police. Critics say the armed hunters will act like a "militia".

Hunters drafted in to back up police in French countryside
The team of “chasseurs vigilants” being launched in the Oise department to the north of Paris will see a “brigade of 200 hunters”, given a special task of informing the local gendarmes of anything suspicious.
“We will be the intelligence services for the countryside,” Guy Harlé d'Ophove, the president of the local hunters association told France Info.
“The idea came in the sense that the gendarmerie has less of a presence in rural areas than before. We on the other hand are constantly outside. We know the forests remarkably well,” he said.
The volunteers will be picked by the police and will have to take an oath. Any hunter with a criminal record will be rejected.
The scheme is based on the Neighbourhood Watch project so the hunters will be tasked with keeping an eye on the woods where they hunt and reporting anything mysterious to the police.
The scheme is already reaping rewards for authorities after hunters reported a stolen car found in the woods at the weekend. The car and its belongings were returned to the owners.
Local hunter Luc Vandenbeele who came up with the idea, told Le Parisien, “We can also help in the search for missing people.”
If the hunters spot anything suspicious they can dial 17 and by giving an identification code they will have a direct link with the police.

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While the project might make sense due to the strain on the resources of the gendarmerie, which are tasked to police rural areas in France, concerns have been raised that the hunters, who will naturally be armed, may start to act as vigilantes.
The local branch of Human Rights League has called the brigade of hunters a “militia in camouflage”. 
Some fear hunters will benefit from impunity while others say they are the last people who should be given special responsibility.
“They will think they are cowboys and shoot at anything that moves,” said one online commenter. Another said: “They need to stop getting drunk and shooting at anything.”
But French gendarmes have tried to ease fears that hunters will start acting as cops.
“There will be no confusion of roles,” police captain Eric Lecacheur told Le Parisien. “We have told them not to be gendarmes.
“Under no circumstances will they be asked to intervene unless it is to help a person. They will be asked to look out for anything strange and warn us in the case of an emergency.”


France bans glue trapping of birds after EU court ruling

France's top administrative court said on Monday that glue hunting of birds would be prohibited, revoking exemptions granted by French authorities for a traditional practice that has long been denounced by animal rights campaigners.

France bans glue trapping of birds after EU court ruling
A demonstration of hunters to denounce the ban on glue hunting, in south-west France in 2020. Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP.

The State Council’s move comes after the EU Court of Justice said in March that using so-called glue traps caused “irreparable harm” to the thrushes and blackbirds that are caught.

The birds are then used to lure others to the waiting hunters, who say they are later cleaned of the sticky material, called birdlime, and released. But critics say the technique invariably leads to the capture of a wide variety of birds that are often injured, including having their feathers damaged or torn off.

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France was the last EU member to still authorise the traps with an annual quota of 42,000 birds, mainly in southern France, though President Emmanuel Macron suspended the hunt last August pending the EU court ruling.

Two campaign groups had brought a case against the French environment ministry arguing that the practice constituted animal cruelty.

Activists say that 150,000 birds die annually in France from non-selective hunting techniques such as glue traps and nets at a time when Europe’s bird population is in free-fall.