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La chasse: How France plans to make hunting safer

The Local France
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La chasse: How France plans to make hunting safer
(Photo by Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP)

After ongoing controversy about the high number of fatal accidents, the French government is putting together a plan to tighten up safety rules. A ban, however, appears to be off the table.

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Hunting laws in France could be about to change, as the country’s State Secretary for Ecology studies a number of options - but a ban on Sunday afternoon hunting does not appear to be up for consideration.

Bérangère Couillard, known as the government's “Madame Chasse”, will follow officers of the Office français de la biodiversité (OFB) as they monitor a number of hunts in the Marne department on Tuesday, and will also attend a training course for people interested in obtaining a hunting licence, as she ponders tightening rules to reduce the number of hunting accidents.

Hunting - la chasse in French - generally refers to shooting and has long been a source of complaint because of the safety risks to the general public during the season. Although, overall, what are commonly referred in the French press to as hunting accidents are down, two recent incidents hit the headlines.

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Earlier this month, a British woman died after being shot by her partner during a wild boar hunt, in what a prosecutor described as a "dramatic accident". A week previously, a 33-year-old mother and her two children were shot by a hunter who said he was “blinded by the sun”.

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Couillard is expected to set new rules in place around Christmas. Le Parisien reports that she is considering formally tightening rules around alcohol consumption, using drink-drive rules as a reference, with hunts on both public and private lands set to be subject to the new rules.

Discussions are currently taking place with the Ministry of Justice to determine details of the measure and the level of penalties. The OFB, and possibly the gendarmerie, would be responsible for issuing fines.

In September, a Senate report had recommended banning alcohol altogether.

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

The Fédération nationale des chasseurs (FNC) has also been consulted. In something of a turnaround in attitude, a spokesman said that the FNC said, “we are open to all scenarios”. 

Other rules in Couillard sights include those on the use of guns in hunts involving the driving of animals towards hunters by beaters, in which the most serious incidents occur.

The government is reportedly considering rolling out a 30-degree range-of-fire rule that is already applied in some places. 

Other suggestions being considered include improving first aid training and improving signage in hunt areas.

But a ban on Sunday afternoon hunting - popular with ecologist MPs - appears to have been cast into the long grass following protests from hunting groups, notably the FNC, which has strong political connections.

These developments come at a time when the Conseil d’Etat suspended bird-hunting authorisations using traditional methods for catching larks using cages or nets in the country's south-west.

 

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