I took a walk this unusually beautiful Sunday afternoon down the lane which skirts the corn field. The upright cornstalks tower over your head and the slight wind rustles their drying leaves – the only noise to be heard in this quiet haven away from the urban crush. Until a huge bang changed all that and my heart nearly sprung out of my chest. Then a bird fell from the sky. The hunters were hiding in there, waving their guns: this was a post prandial shoot, a post Sunday lunch jamboree and how could I know what they’d been drinking? … I turned for home. Then, when I got in I heard on the news that yesterday a British mountain biker was accidentally shot dead by a hunter in the French Alps.
In the last month, since the opening of the hunting season, 4 people have already been shot dead in France. I could have been number 5 – or rather number 6, since I presume that tragedy hasn’t yet got into the statistics.
Last August, French President Macron, with a nod to the hunting lobby, reduced the price of a hunting permit from 400 to 200 euros per year. This provoked a dramatic reaction from the former charismatic French environment minister Nicolas Hulot who criticised the growing power of lobbyists in general in the government. For him it was the last straw and he subsequently resigned from government (now replaced by François de Rugy, a one-time member of the Greens Europe Ecologie-Les Verts).
The President also approved in August the fusion of the two national bodies: the French Biodiversity Agency/AFB* and the National Office for Hunting and for Wild Animals/ONFCS**. He did this mostly in order to pool resources for environmental policing, much to the dismay of the the French National Hunters’ Federation.***
During the season 2016-2017, according to the ONCFS there were 143 accidents (less than the previous season) with 18 people killed. The main cause (50%) of accidental deaths was the non-respect of the 30 degree angle at which the gun should be held. No non-hunter was killed.
The ONCFS is responsible for delivering hunting permits: in 2017-2018 it validated 1,100, 000 permits.
Whereas it was reported in 2014 that the number of hunters in France were in decline, apparently due to the older generation dying off, the cost of ammunition, equipment, hunting dogs and… the high cost of permits, figures now show that the number has stabilised.
A survey undertaken in December last year by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and reported in Le Monde revealed that 84 % of those questioned were against hunting with hounds, and 71 % felt insecure taking a walk in the country. You bet.