‘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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‘We are treated like assassins’: Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?

Senior French politicians have heeded the call of a 120,000-signature petition and recommended banning alcohol during hunts.

'We are treated like assassins': Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?

Prohibiting “hunting while intoxicated or after narcotics” is one of 30 proposals “for greater security in hunting” put forward in the report published by senators as the new hunting season gets under way, and at the end of more than 100 hearings and months of investigations following the death in December 2020 of Morgan Keane in the Auvergne. He was shot while cutting wood in his garden.

It suggests “aligning the blood alcohol level, the prohibition of narcotics as well as their respective sanctions with the rules in force in terms of the highway code”. 

Currently, there is no limit on drinking before and during hunting, but alcohol is considered an aggravating factor in the event of prosecution after an accident.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about France’s hunting season

Hunting groups have reacted angrily to the proposed alcohol ban, claiming that 91 percent of alcohol screening tests following a hunting incident come back negative.

Local groups are raising awareness among their members. In Gard, hunting rules indicate that: “The practice of hunting is forbidden under the influence of narcotics or alcohol and to be in a state of inebriation.”

But Willy Schraen, president of the National Federation of Hunters, brushed aside the problem: “What right do you have to reserve [these rules] for hunters, a drunk guy on a bike is dangerous too.”

Antoine Herrmann, director of the federation of Rhône hunters, criticised what he classified as a ‘stigmatisation’ of hunters.

“We are being passed off as assassins,” Alain Messal, a hunter from Haute-Garonne, told BFMTV. “We are being caricatured on things that are unfounded – today, hunters are not alcoholics.”

Senator Patrick Chaize, one of the authors of the report, however, said that: “the situation must be clarified” because “alcohol is not prohibited when hunting”. 

“The objective is therefore to correct this situation,” and to allow routine blood alcohol checks on hunters which could be carried out by forestry officials.

The petition had also called for hunting to be banned across the country on Wednesdays and Sundays during the hunting season – but this was rejected in the senators’ report, saying that studies had not backed up petitioners’ claims that incidents involving people not taking part in hunts rose on those days.

“According to the latest report of the Institut national de veille sanitaire (INVS) from January 2020, hunting represents 4 percent of traumatic accidents related to sport, 10 times less than mountain sports,” the report said.

READ ALSO How to get through France’s hunting season ‘without being shot’

“On the road, collisions with wild animals cause more victims than hunting. 

“The share of alcohol-related accidents is also lower in hunting (nine percent) than on the road (13-28 percent depending on the circumstances). Nevertheless, each accident is one too many and hunting accidents have two specificities: the use of firearms and the fact that 12% of victims are non-hunters.”

READ ALSO ‘It’s like the Wild West’: Tales of life in rural France during the hunting season

In the 2021-22 hunting season, the Office français de biodiversité recorded a total of 90 hunting accidents in which people were injured as a result of a hunting weapon being discharged, including eight fatalities.