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La chasse: Why hunting is becoming an election issue in France

With around 1.2 million hunters in France and strong support in many rural areas, politicians in France have long been wary of upsetting the hunting lobby, but the divisive issue appears to have now entered the 2022 election campaign. Here's what people are arguing about.

French hunters protesting against restrictions on la chasse.
French hunters protesting against restrictions on la chasse. Photo: Clement Mahoudeau/AFP

Who are the hunters?

There are about 1.2 million hunters in France, and together with their supporters and families, they could represent a pool of around five million voters.

There are various different types of hunting including foxhunts on horseback and the controversial ‘glue hunting’ but the most common type is shooting, when hunters go after a variety of game from deer to birds.

What is the controversy?

There are two main issues with hunting in France – animal cruelty and safety issues.

Every year around 20 people are killed in hunting accidents in France and there are plenty who say that hunters have a cavalier attitude to safety. Some recent cases include cyclists and drivers shot and killed as they passed hunting areas, although the majority of victims each season are hunters themselves.

READ ALSO How to get through the French hunting season without getting shot

In the past week several hunting accidents were given nationwide media coverage, including a walker in the southern Haute-Savoie region and a driver in his 70s outside Rennes in Brittany, who were both badly wounded.

It is these safety concerns that have lead some politicians to propose further regulations including banning hunting at the weekend, when more passers-by are around.

READ ALSO Pistols at dawn: How we dealt with the French hunting season

Who says what?

Environment minister Barbara Pompili said this week that a ban on weekend hunting should be discussed.

“This is part of a long-standing debate on the issue of sharing space and it’s an idea that comes up at one point and needs to be debated,” Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told France Info radio.

Yannick Jadot, chosen last month by the Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV) party as its candidate in the presidential elections, said he wanted to ban hunting both at the weekends and during school holidays in a proposal that won wide attention.

“My role as minister responsible for hunting is to ensure that hunting respects a certain number of rules,” Pompili said, emphasising that hunting security measures have been reinforced in recent years.

Macron’s ruling party “has no desire to ban hunting in one way or another. On the other hand, it must be regulated,” she added.

Recent restrictions

Under Macron’s government, French authorities have brought in a number of moves to tighten rules on hunting to bring France in line with EU regulations but which have angered hunters.

The State Council, France’s highest administrative authority, in August banned popular traditional hunting techniques such as hunting with nets or bird cages, in line with a 2009 EU directive. That followed the banning of glue hunting in June.

La chasse à la glu (glue hunting) is controversial even within France, and refers to a technique of trapping songbirds in glue traps. Around 6,000 people previously took part in this activity.

These changes prompted thousands to protest in September and the government is mulling re-authorising some of these traditional hunts, to the dismay of environmental activists.

Member comments

  1. No it isn’t an election issue and never will be. A ban on hunting on a Sunday might get passed but even that’s very doubtful. I’ve been shooting since the age of eight in the UK, USA and France on family land but here in France I find the most danger. For at least the past ten years the local hunters dress as though they are preparing for an alien invasion with a mind set that if it moves shoot it. The great problem with the hunters in France is that they have the right to roam whereas in the UK they don’t. Having a shoot in the UK is completely different and far better organised then France because thay are by invitation. In France anyone with a gun and a lisence can just turn up and shoot anything with a bottom that moves according to the time of year.

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READER QUESTIONS

Don’t ask Google, ask us: Why is France in Mali?

In this mini series, The Local answers common questions that comes up when you start typing questions with "France" or "the French" into the Google search engine.

French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane.
French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. Photo: Florent Vergnes/AFP

Why is France . . . in Mali?

You might not immediately associate the west African country with France, but in fact France has had a major military presence there since 2013 and ‘why is France in Mali’ is the third most popular suggestion from Google when we asked ‘why is France’.

Commonly referred to in the French media by its army name of Opération Barkhane, the French military operations in Mali have been the source of some controversy and political tension for several years, and in February 2022 president Emmanuel Macron announced the end of operations in Mali and the withdrawal of French troops.

Mali, in West Africa, is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world and also forms part of the region known as Sahel, the region of North Africa which includes countries such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

Since 2012 Sahel has been at the centre of armed conflict with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaida and Islamic State and since 2013 French troops have been taking part in an international operation against the extremists. It is centred in Mali because of the estimated 2,000 fighters in the region, more than 1,000 are from Mali.

France has historic links with Mali – until 1960 is was a French colony – but the French military, the largest in the EU, takes part in many international operations – it has been engaged in nine countries since 2011.

Since the beginning of the operation, 52 French soldiers have died, about 8,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and 2 million were displaced by the fighting.

In June 2021, the French government decided that the army would progressively leave the country, a withdrawal that was accelerated in 2022 after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta in Mali. 

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