France revises hunting rules but stops short of Sunday ban

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France’s government on Monday announced tighter rules against hunting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and protection for walkers and local residents, but stopped short of a hoped-for Sunday ban.

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Although a weekend “no hunting day” is popular with the public, President Emmanuel Macron is wary of alienating rural voters and adding to anti-government resentment as he launches a major pension reform.

Instead, junior environment minister Berangere Couillard said hunting under the influence would be banned, training and safety rules for hunters strengthened and digital systems developed to warn other countryside users away from active hunting zones.

Punishments will also be upgraded, including hunters losing their licences if they are involved in a serious accident.

“My goal is to aim for zero accidents,” Couillard said on a Monday trip to the Loiret department south of Paris.

“We want to see better safety, seven days a week,” she added.

Statistics show hunting accidents have been on the decline in France over the past 20 years. But cases of injury or even death from stray bullets remain highly emotive and are often widely covered by the media.

Some 90 accidents were recorded during the 2021-22 hunting season, eight of them fatal, according to the OFB biodiversity authority, which manages the sport.

Just this weekend, an 84-year-old hunter in Corsica accidentally shot himself dead as he was stowing his gun in his car.

Almost 80 percent of the French public favour a hunting ban on Sundays, polling firm IFOP found in December.

The government had not ruled out such a move but sources within the executive told AFP last week that “nothing in the statistics points to Sunday being a more accident-prone day than any other”.

Meanwhile Willy Schraen, the head of the influential FNC hunting lobby, said last week he couldn’t imagine hunting-free Sundays “for a single second”.

He has claimed there would be uproar in rural areas if there were a ban.

“We have to share access to nature,” the leader of the Greens parliamentary party, Marine Tondelier, retorted on Sunday. “This shouldn’t just be discussed between Emmanuel Macron and Willy Schraen”.

The FNC (National Hunters’ Federation) has backed a new criminal offence of hunting under the influence, similar to that in force for drivers.

There are 1.1 million active hunters in France, according to the FNC, and some five million people possess a hunting licence.

(AFP)