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

The Local France
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'We are treated like assassins': Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?
(Photo: Guillaume Souvant / AFP)

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

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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”. 

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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. 

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“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.

 

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