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POLITICS

France passes law to give rural noises and smells protected status

From crowing roosters to the whiff of barnyard animals, the "sensory heritage" of France's countryside will now be protected by law from attempts to stifle the everyday aspects of rural life from newcomers looking for peace and quiet.

France passes law to give rural noises and smells protected status
Noisy cockerels now have the full backing of the law. Photo: AFP

French senators on Thursday gave final approval to a law proposed in the wake of several high-profile conflicts by village residents and vacationers, or recent arrivals derided as “neo-rurals”.

A rowdy rooster named Maurice in particular made headlines in 2019 after a court in western France rejected a bid to have him silenced by neighbours who had purchased a holiday home nearby.

READ ALSO How a noisy cockerel exposed France's urban and rural divide

 

“Living in the countryside implies accepting some nuisances,” Joel Giraud, the government's minister in charge of rural life, told lawmakers.

Cow bells (and cow droppings), grasshopper chirps and noisy early-morning tractors are also now considered part of France's natural heritage that will be codified in its environmental legislation.

“It sends a strong message,” said Pierre-Antoine Levi, the senator who acted as rapporteur for the bill.

“It can act as a useful tool for local officials as they carry out their educational and mediation duties,” he said.

The law is emblematic of growing tensions in the countryside between longtime residents and outsiders whose bucolic expectations often clash with everyday realities.

Corinne Fesseau and her rooster Maurice became the image of the fight when she was brought to court by pensioners next door over the animal's shrill wake-up calls.

Critics saw the lawsuit as part of a broader threat to France's hallowed rural heritage by outsiders and city dwellers unable or unwilling to understand the realities of country life.

Thousands of people signed a “Save Maurice” petition, and a judge eventually upheld the cock-a-doodle-doos.

In another case from 2019, a woman in the duck-breeding heartland of the Landes region was brought to court by a newcomer neighbour fed up with the babbling of the ducks and geese in her back garden.

A court in southwest France also threw out that case.

Member comments

  1. About time too. Very sensible to have this enshrined in law especially as the post-Covid world will most likely see more city folk moving outward into the countryside.

  2. If you live in a rural area you accept the good things about country living and maybe, for some people, the not so good, roosters crowing, farmyard smells etc just make me realize how lucky I am to live in the country!

  3. Absolutely totally unnecessary. Why do we French think that everything has to made into law. Is it a relic of the mob mentality of the Revolution. vie au roi

  4. It was once said of a politician that “He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel in moonlight.” I wonder if his outpourings would be protected.

  5. The real problem with noise in the countryside, is the one created by the screeching children staying in bloody gites and their loud mouthed British parents.

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POLITICS

Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Twitter's new boss Elon Musk on Thursday, saying the entrepreneur was wrong to drop the fight against Covid disinformation as he slashes back content moderation on the platform.

Macron calls for stricter Twitter controls on Covid disinformation

With his country facing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections, Macron said the subject of misleading Covid information should be addressed head on, not swept under the rug.

“I think this is a big issue,” Macron, on a state visit to the United States, told broadcaster ABC. “What I push very much, for one, is exactly the opposite: more regulation.”

He said such protections have been implemented and enforced in France and “at the European level.”

Freedom of expression remains paramount, Macron insisted, “but there is responsibilities and limits” to what can be written and disseminated.

“You cannot go into the streets and have a racist speech or anti-Semitic speech,” the French leader said. “You cannot put at risk the life of somebody else. Violence is never legitimate in democracy.”

Macron’s concept of freedom of expression within acceptable limits is far from the libertarian approach of Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist” who has sacked many of the Twitter employees tasked with content moderation.

Musk has begun to allow Twitter users banned from the platform for posting disinformation, such as former US president Donald Trump, to return.

And it emerged this week that Twitter has stopped enforcing a rule preventing users from sharing misleading information about Covid-19 and vaccine effectiveness.

The billionaire Musk has made no secret of his fierce opposition to health restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic, especially when they meant the temporary shuttering of his Tesla electric vehicle factory in California.

“To say that they can not leave their house and they will be arrested if they do… this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” Musk raged in April 2020 on a conference call with analysts.

On Wednesday the European Union issued a sharp warning to Musk, saying he must do “significantly” more to fight disinformation, such as reinforcement of content moderation, in order to comply with EU law.

“There is still huge work ahead” for Twitter, said Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market.

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