Sésame the French horse is on trial… for producing too much manure

A biodynamic vineyard and its horse is at the heart of a legal conflict in rural France - with neighbours complaining that the animal produces too much manure.

Sésame the French horse is on trial… for producing too much manure
Photo: AFP: French farmer ploughing his fields using animal power.

Sésame, the horse owned by Marie and her brother Jean-Paul Zusslin of the Valentin Zusslin vineyard in Alsace, is currently awaiting a legal judgement on November 18th. 

Since 2012, the Zusslins have been using Sésame for ploughing and to transfer crates, as part of their biodynamic philosophy.

When Sésame is not in the vineyards, he sometimes grazes in a small meadow in the heart of the village and in the direct vicinity of a country cottage. 

And what goes in must go out. 

The owners of the neighbouring cottage feel much aggrieved by Sésame’s output, namely “the smell of manure and urine, the massive presence of flies and the horse noises”. The couple directly links this to a decrease in the number of visitors to their rental cottage.

However, the Guebwiller District Court rejected their claims on July 3rd 2018, on the grounds that “the inconveniences caused by this presence do not exceed the usual inconveniences of the neighbourhood”. The plaintiffs chose to appeal this decision and the case is due back in front of a judge on November 18th.

This is the latest in a long line of bizarre legal rural battles often involving animals. And the animals normally win. 

There was a similar situation in the small village of Sallèdes, in the Puy-de-Dôme region, in 1995. The nuisances associated with chicken farming had pitted a chicken farm against a neighbouring couple, who considered the hens “too noisy and smelly”, says Le Monde

The owner of the henhouse won on appeal, as the judge declared “the hen is a harmless and stupid animal, to the point that no one has yet managed to train it, not even a Chinese circus”.

There were also the randy frogs making too much noise in a pond in the Dordogne. Then a tourist found church bells too loud and appealed to the mayor in Lozère to stop them ringing during her two week holiday. And then there was the case of Maurice, the rowdy rooster. His owners successfully defeated a court case filed by unhappy neighbours.


Online petition

The owners of the Zusslin estate launched an online petition on September 16th to fight for Sésame. It has already collected more than 15,000 signatures. 

“Before the horse, it was the sound of our air-conditioning and the church bells ringing too loudly…”, says Marie Zusslin. 

For her, “this problem highlights a lack of openness and tolerance” that is a characteristic of the time. “It's a fight of principle against people who want to stop us from working in the way we believe is important”.

For their part, the neighbours say that the media have distorted their case. 

“What bothers us are the horses under our windows. Our guests could no longer eat outside,” explains neighbour Laurent Holer. “We have nothing against horses in the vineyards, quite the contrary”. 

Since the media became interested in the subject, “the field has started to be clean,” he admits. “As it stands, we would no longer be suing. But it had become intolerable.” 


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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier