‘Go for a walk at home’, president of French hunters tells hikers in rural France

The president of France's association of hunters has sparked anger by telling people they should go for a walk 'at home' in order to avoid coming into contact with hunters.

'Go for a walk at home', president of French hunters tells hikers in rural France
People walk past Champagne vineyards on an autumn day near the windwill of Verzenay, northeastern France, on October 29, 2021. (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)
Each year the hunting season in France is marred by deadly accidents. Most of these involve hunters killing fellow hunters by accident after mistaking them for game or wild boar.
But there have also been numerous high profile cases of walkers, joggers and even cyclists being shot dead in similar accidents.
The tragedies regularly lead to calls for hunting to more regulated in France and banned at weekends but Willy Schraen, the president of France’s national federation of hunters hit back with a message that hikers and lovers of the French countryside will not be pleased to hear.
When asked about people wanting to go for a peaceful walk but not run the risk of being shot by hunters Schraen said: “They just have to do it at home, they won’t have any problem.
“You can always be hit by a stray bullet, but don’t worry, you have a much better chance of being killed in France by a murderer than by a hunter,” he said.
According to figures from the French government there were some 80 hunting accidents during the 2020/21 season that saw seven people killed, six of whom were hunters and one victim who was just a passerby.
That death led to renewed calls for hunting to be regulated.

Animal rights charity the Brigitte Bardot foundation called from stricter controls on hunting and a limit to the days when hunters can operate.

READ ALSO How to stay safe during the French hunting season

Charity spokesman Christophe Marie said at the time: “We need a political response because unfortunately the death of this young woman is not an isolated case.

“In 20 years, hunters have killed more than 400 people and injured thousands more. We are asking for a much stricter framework for hunting and for days without hunting in order to achieve a better sharing of nature.

But France’s powerful hunting associations have so far resisted any move to tighten the laws around the practice and President Emmanuel Macron has shown little willingness to take on the fight and indeed has expressed support for hunters.
Schraen simply said that “nature is not for everyone”.
“Guys like (Yannick) Jadot and (Jean Luc) Mélenchon, who say that ‘everything is open, go for a walk, nature is for everyone’, it’s not true, that’s not it real life,” he added.
Schraen also likened the cause of his members to that of vegetarians and vegans.
“I would never dream of giving a moral lesson to flexitarians, vegans or vegetarians to get them to change their ways,” he said calling for people to show the same kind of tolerance towards hunters.

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Teen hunter charged in France over hiker’s death

A 17-year-old girl has been charged with involuntary manslaughter over the death of a French hiker shot during a boar hunt at the weekend.

Teen hunter charged in France over hiker's death

French prosecutors said on Tuesday that they had charged a 17-year-old girl with involuntary manslaughter over the death of a hiker during a hunt for wild boar, a tragedy that sparked fresh calls for tougher rules over a cherished pastime.

The teenager presented herself to authorities on Saturday after the victim, a 25-year-old woman who was walking with a friend along a marked trail near Aurillac in central France, died after being hit by a stray bullet.

After being initially treated for shock, the teen was taken into custody for questioning on Sunday before being released, as investigators questioned others in the hunting group to determine if she was indeed the one who took the fatal shot.

While France’s love of its rural heritage runs deep, the tragedy pushed a debate over the divisive tradition into the ongoing presidential campaign, with several rivals of President Emmanuel Macron demanding greater oversight.

Several politicians have called for prohibiting hunting on weekends or during school vacations, as several other European countries have done for years.

READ MORE Where do the French presidential candidates stand on hunting?

Macron will likely face questions over the case at his scheduled appearance at the Paris Agriculture Show on Saturday, a key stop for candidates looking to court the rural vote.

“It’s a tragedy that forces us to ask questions,” Macron’s Environment Minister Barbara Pompili said on Monday, adding that it was legitimate to ask “how a girl so young can find herself with a weapon in her hands.”

Asked about implementing hunt-free days in national forests and other areas, she said: “We have to think about how to reconcile hunters with everyone else who enjoys nature.”

France is one of the few European countries that do not prohibit hunting on certain days during the season, instead allowing hunters to shoot at all times as long as they alert others of their activity — a requirement decried by critics as insufficient.

A petition last autumn seeking to outlaw hunting on Sundays and Wednesdays, when many schools do not have class, garnered 120,000 signatures and prompted the Senate to create a panel to assess its safety.

According to French daily Le Monde, citing France’s biodiversity office, there have been 3,325 hunting accidents in France since 2000, resulting in 421 deaths.