No more shooting to scare Pyrenees bears, French court rules

Tensions over the presence of brown bears in the Pyrenees have run high for decades. Photo: AFPAFP/The
@thelocalfrance6 February 202115:26 CET+01:00Livestock owners in the French Pyrenees can no longer fire warning shots to scare off endangered bears, a court ruled on Friday, handing a victory to animal rights groups who warned of the risk of accidental deaths.

Tensions over the presence of brown bears in mountains separating France and Spain have run high since a re-introduction effort was launched in the mid-1990s.

Farmers were furious when the government stepped up its efforts with a 10-year “bear plan” in 2018, mounting fierce protests when the first female was brought in by helicopter that year.

They say the warning shots are needed to keep the predators from killing sheep and other livestock or destroying bee hives, and authorities began allowing them on a trial basis in 2019.

But the State Council, the country’s top administrative court, struck down the measure after around a dozen pro-bear associations filed a complaint.

It said warning shots are not compatible with “maintaining the populations in their natural environment.”

Contacted by AFP, the environment ministry did not immediately comment.

In a joint statement, the associations welcomed the ruling, saying the decree “made it possible to get around the ban on intentionally disturbing a protected species.”

Three bears were killed in the Pyrenees last year, including one by a hunter who said he acted in self-defence.

In January, the European Commission called on France to rapidly carry out new re-introductions to replace them, as called for in its “bear plan.” There are about 50 bears currently in the Pyrenees, and French officials have said early indications point to a reduction in the number of livestock killed by them last year, after 1,173 animals were killed and 36 bee hives destroyed in 2019. READ ALSO: Shepherds on French-Spanish border fear that bears will strike again

France considers extending the boar hunting season

Wikimedia Commons

The government is preparing a decree which, if passed, will extend the boar hunting season. According to the government the aim of the law is to limit the significant damage caused by big game on farmland every year. Animal rights activists, however, are not happy.

Public consultation on the law finished during the week.

Hunting organisations, in their defense, say that they pay €30 million to farms every year to compensate for any damage caused mainly by wild boar.

Among the proposals, is one which will extend the hunting period, thus enabling hunters to start hunting in June.

As the season ends at the end of March this means hunting boar will be allowed for most of the year. It will also extend the hunting season for deer and fox.

n that is already tense

“Obviously there’s a risk of tension,” says its director-general, Yves Verilhac. “We have more and more people testifying, telling us that there were problems because they were denied access to a road [because of an ongoing hunt].

“France is the country that hunts the most species over the greatest period of the year. And we want to be champions of biodiversity! There is a problem”

Hunters say that they are not all going to take their rifle out as early as June even though the law would give them the opportunity to do so.

The derogations already existed previously. This public consultation process was highly subscribed. More than 25,000 comments were submitted and received.

Deer rips off ‘half’ of hunter’s face as he tries to shoot it

Enlarge ImageVincent Saubion
Vincent SaubionCEN

This buck fought back!

A behemoth deer charged a French hunter as he tried to shoot it, ripping open the guy’s face and landing him in the hospital with 50 stitches, according to a report.

“It actually took half my face off,” the hunter, Vincent Saubion, told the UK Metro.

The 36-year-old had to be raced by helicopter to a team of surgeons after the 330-pound animal he was stalking in southwest France stormed him, according to the outlet.

The deer tore a chunk of skin off Saubion’s mug, under his cheek and eye — causing him to “feel drunk” from the impact and amount of blood loss, he said.

He was so disoriented, he told pals that he wanted to keep hunting, but they forced him to stop while a firefighter friend tended to his wounds.

He was later treated at Pellegrin Hospital in Bordeaux, where he underwent emergency surgery.

But the wild attack won’t stop him from returning to the sport, he said.

“I am still crazy about hunting,” Saubion said. “I have nothing but respect for the game.”

France to ban culling of unwanted male chicks by end of 2021

A chick stands among eggs being hatched inside an incubator at the Agriculture Fair in Paris in February 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionAn estimated seven billion unwanted male chicks are killed each year

France has pledged to outlaw the practice of culling unwanted male chicks by the end of 2021, as part of animal welfare reforms.

About seven billion male chicks – not wanted for meat or eggs – are killed around the world each year, usually in shredding machines or by gas.

The government said new methods were emerging that would make it possible to test the sex of embryos inside the egg.

But some campaigners said the reforms did not go far enough.

What are the changes in France?

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume announced the reforms at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

“From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before,” he said.

Mr Guillaume said he hoped a method would soon be developed that would allow the gender of a chick to be determined before it had hatched.

Researchers have been working on the issue for years, but are yet to come up with a solution that works on an industrial scale.

The 2021 ban will make France one of the first countries to outlaw the practice of culling male chicks. A ban in Switzerland came into effect earlier this year, while a top court in Germany has ruled that the practice can continue on a temporary basis until an alternative can be found.

France and Germany last year said they would work together to put an end to mass chick culling.

Mr Guillaume also announced on Tuesday that the practice of castrating piglets without anaesthesia would be banned by the end of 2021.

Castration is performed to prevent “boar taint” – a potent smell or taste that can occur in the meat of non-neutered pigs. Several countries have already made the use of anaesthesia obligatory.

How widespread is male chick culling?

The mass-killing of male chicks shortly after birth is common practice in food production around the world.

For the billions of hens used in egg and poultry farming every year, a similar number of male chicks are killed shortly after birth.

Male chicks are viewed in the industry as commercially useless, because they grow more slowly than hens so are deemed unsuitable for meat production.

After sorting, the most common methods of killing involve asphyxiation by gassing or maceration in high-speed grinders.

What has the response been?

Many animal rights activists welcomed the changes in France but said they did not go far enough.

They are “a step in the right direction, but still inadequate”, Anissa Putois of the campaigning group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) told AFP news agency.

French animal protection group L214 said the measures were “not ambitious” and “do not address the basic problems”.

“There is nothing on slaughter conditions, nor on how to exit from intensive animal farming,” it said, according to AFP.

Presentational grey line

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Wild boar turns tables on French hunters, wounding two

The men were injured when the animal turned and attacked, leaving one of them in critical condition. A debate over hunting has continued to gain momentum in France due to the high number of humans being killed.

A wild boar in a wood

Two hunters were injured in the western French region of Loire-Atlantique on Wednesday when the wild boar they were hunting turned and attacked them. One of the men was rushed to hospital for treatment and remains in critical condition. The animal is said to have weighed 100 kilos (220 pounds).

Wild boar are known as ferocious creatures made all the more dangerous by their swiftness, low center of gravity, muscular shoulders and sharp tusks — which they can use to tear open a hunter’s leg, causing severe bleeding.

The incident was the latest in an ongoing series of serious hunting accidents in France. The frequency and severity of those accidents has sparked fierce debate over hunting practices in the country. Critics point to lax laws governing the sport as well as the ease with which a license can be obtained.

France’s national hunting and wildlife agency ONCFS said that about 115 people had been injured in hunting accidents as of June 1, 2018. The agency said that roughly 85 percent of those injured were hunters and that 13 people had died from their injuries. Three of the deceased were not hunters.

Wild boar in snowy forest The boars can be found across Europe’s forests

Not just animals being killed

The grim statistic rose last weekend when a 34-year-old Welsh mountain biker living in France was shot in the chest while riding on a well-marked trail in the French Alps. The man, Marc Sutton, died from his injuries. The 22-year-old who shot him was hospitalized for shock and may face charges for aggravated manslaughter.

Two weeks ago another man in the same region was sentenced to one year in jail after being convicted of accidentally killing a runner with a single bullet to the head. Critics have demanded tighter regulations on hunting in populated areas or those popular with non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts.

Controversial outside France as well

Hunting is not only a controversial topic in France. Recently an American TV host drew anger from residents in Scotland after she posted several pictures of herself with animals that she shot and killed across the country, among them, a wild goat on the island of Islay.

Local Parliamentarian Michael Russel responded to Larysa Switlk’s post by condemning the practice of hunting goats in Scotland, calling for it to be “stopped immediately.” He specifically criticized tourism companies offering hunters the chance to stalk and kill wild goats, which others call an invasive species.

Michael Russell


As the local member of @ScotParl I am raising this as a matter of urgency with @strathearnrose – if this is actually happening on , and laid on by some sort of tour company I would want to see it stopped immediately

Larysa Switlyk@LSwitlyk

Congrats on Jason on his gold medal 🥇 goat here in Scotland on Islay. A unique hunt, email for more information ! 

View image on Twitter


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France to let wolf population grow despite farmers’ fears

Wolves in Les Angles, south-western France. File photoImage copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionAfter being wiped out by hunters in the 1930s, wolves returned to France in the 1990s

France is to allow the wolf population to grow from about 360 now to 500 by 2023, despite protests from farmers worried about their livestock.

A new plan announced by the government represents a rise of nearly 40% in the wolf population.

After being eradicated by hunters in the 1930s, the wolf made its way back into France from Italy in the 1990s.

Wolves are listed as a protected species by the Bern Convention that France has signed up to.

Animal rights groups had been pushing for a more radical proposal and accused ministers of lacking political courage.

In a gesture to farmers, the government said that hunters in France would still be allowed to cull 40 wolves this year, the same as in 2017. Up to 10% of the wolf population could be culled every year from 2019, and that proportion could rise to 12% if more frequent wolf attacks were registered.

Almost 12,000 sheep were killed by wolves in France in 2017 and the government has come under strong pressure from farmers in French regions – particularly in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

“We place trust in all of the stakeholders and local lawmakers to calm the debate and enable co-existence over the long-term,” Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert and Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said in a joint statement.

The new plan also envisages that livestock owners will be able to apply for state funds to protect their animals from wolves.

France is not the only Western European country witnessing the return of the wolf.

Last month a wolf was spotted in the Flanders region of northern Belgium for the first time in over a century.

There were an estimated 60 wolf packs living in Germany in 2017, a rise of some 15% on the previous year.

What can be done to stop all the deadly hunting accidents in France?

What can be done to stop all the deadly hunting accidents in France?
Photo: AFP
The French hunting season isn’t only dangerous for wild animals. Every year a series of tragic accidents sees hunters, their family members and other members of the public killed. But how can it be avoided?
So far during the 2017-2018 French hunting season which started in September there have been nine people killed.
Three of these were people were unconnected with the hunt and one of these victims was sitting in her own garden.

Les non-chasseurs représentent un tiers des victimes d’accidents de chasse mortels !!
71 % des Français se sentent en insécurité en se baladant dans la nature :@EmmanuelMacron écoutez les citoyens et répondez à notre demande pour faire réformer la chasse !

On average there are around 20 deaths each year. In recent years, The Local has reported how joggershikersmushroom pickersmotorists, even gardeners have routinely been killed by stray bullets from rifles that were meant to kill wild boars, deer or pheasants.
But what can be done to solve the number of deadly accidents?
What the anti-hunting lobby says
Anti-hunting groups blame the hunting community’s lack of regard for the rules around hunting.
“They don’t respect the rules and they don’t want to be controlled,” said Marc Giraud, spokesperson for French anti-hunting group ASPAS.
“They are masters of their own world and the rules as they stand at the moment are insufficient,” he added.

'It's like the Wild West': Tales of life in rural France during the hunting season

ARCHIVE Photo: AFP Picture dated 29 August 1996 of 90-year-old Anna Chaillard, still an active boar hunter walking with her dog Titi in the surroundings of Huanne, central France.
ASPAS has been campaigning for hunting to be banned on Sundays for several years which Giraud said he believes would cut down on the number of deaths.
“There are around 20 deaths in hunting accidents each year and about 300 injuries, but France is the only country in Europe where hunting is not banned around the country on at least one day of the weekend,” he told The Local previously.
“We need to remember that hunters often suffer themselves. They or their family members are often the ones killed in these accidents.”
“But it’s worse when it’s people who aren’t involved in hunting because that spreads fear among people who are trying to live their normal lives.”
ASPAS would like to see more breathalyzer tests conducted on hunters before they are allowed to go out with their guns. For Giraud the same rules that apply to driving should apply to anyone who picks up a gun.
“One of the big problems is that breathalyzer tests are not obligatory and are only carried out in some departments,” he said.
Photo: AFP
“When you have a rifle in your hand, you are in charge of a lethal weapon, just like car drivers. Yet we have laws against drink-driving. It should be the same for hunters,” he told The Local.
One of the main barriers for change in the situation is the power of France’s hunting lobby which Giraud says is the “most powerful lobbying group in the National Assembly”.
The government, already conscious that rural France is suffering from a farming crisis, might not want to take on that lobby. But for ASPAS, there is only one way to prevent the accidents.
“The only way you’ll stop the accidents altogether is by stopping hunting,” he said.
What the residents say
Those living in rural France don’t expect any change soon, given the power of the hunting lobby in France. Most accept they will have to continue to take cover during hunts.
“As immigrants we do not feel that we should be critical of the way of life here but do feel it needs stronger regulations such as restricted to one day a week and kept further away from inhabited areas,” says Claire Younghusband, who lives on the border of Dordogne and the Lot.
“Sadly, we do not believe that anything will change any time soon as there are too many off duty police officers and municipal officials that enjoy the ‘sport’ and the general public does not seem to be inclined to get behind an anti-hunt lobby.”
American Kene Ovenshire from the Landes department has regularly confronted hunters near his farm.
“Their tradition is so deeply ingrained in them that my ‘complaints’ are always offensive to them,” he told The Local.
“I’ve resided to the fact that this is the way it is here – there’s nothing it seems that can be done.
“Other than tolerate them as best I can.”
Photo: AFP
What the hunters say
The National Hunters Federation in France has stressed that it is taking measures to improve the situation.
“It’s harder to get a licence now and the accidents that we see during the hunting season are usually people who are older, who got their permits a long time ago,” Julie Miquel, head of communications at the federation told The Local.
“The number of accidents is falling and will continue to do so now it’s more difficult to qualify for a licence,” she added.
Miquel also puts the “unusual” number of non-hunter deaths that have occurred so far this season down to the unseasonably warm weather.
“One accident is one too many,” said Miquel. “But usually it’s hunters that are killed during the hunting season rather than members of the general public.
“This year however the number has gone up because people have been making the most of the warmer weather and have been out walking in the countryside more than they normally would.”
Statistics released by France’s national hunting and wildlife office show that the number of accidents reported from June 1st 2016 May 31st 2017 stood at 143 in total, which showed a drop on the previous year’s figures.
However this isn’t the whole story. While the total number of accidents did fall, the number of deaths rose by 80 percent, from 10 to 18.
Miquel says the accidents are usually a result of “tired” hunters and are “definitely not down to alcohol intake”, which others have pointed to as a contributing factor in the past.
Photo: AFP 
Although she added that hunters are not required to take a breathalyzer test before hunting.
“It’s more a question of judgement, like if someone left a restaurant after a few drinks and was deciding whether to drive home or not,” said Miquel.
And what about the rise in deaths this year among members of the public?
Miquel said: “We have been looking into the subject of cohabitation of natural spaces for many years. One of the problems is that some areas that were once clearly forest aren’t anymore, as the population rises and more and more houses are built in rural zones.”
“But it is a good question and we’re looking at how we can better communicate with hunters. We’d also like to introduce more regular training for hunters who got their permits a long time ago.”
One of the problems with this however is that different departments are responsible for making the ultimate decisions on subjects such as this and rules cannot be enforced by the head office, said Miquel.

Hiker is killed after being shot in the groin by a wild boar hunter in the south of France

  • Jean-Louis Blanc, 59, was shot to death in Drome, south France
  • The alleged killed was out hunting and mistook Mr Blanc for a boar 
  • The 64-year-old local hunter is now facing charges of manslaughter

A hiker has been shot to death in a hunting accident after he was mistaken for a wild boar in the south of France.

Jean-Louis Blanc, 59, was out walking close to the village of Taulignan, in the Drome department, when he was hit in the groin by a bullet.

The hunter, a local man aged 64, has been arrested by police and is facing manslaughter charges.

Accident: A 59-year-old man was shot dead by a hunter near the village of Taulignan, Drome department, after the 64-year-old mistook him  for a wild boar

Accident: A 59-year-old man was shot dead by a hunter near the village of Taulignan, Drome department, after the 64-year-old mistook him for a wild boar

‘The hunter was in his 60s and was sure a boar was coming towards him through the undergrowth after his dog started barking,’ said a source close to the enquiry.

‘He pulled the trigger, and the result was this terrible accident. The hunter is now in custody.’

Paramedics attended the scene of the killing, which took place shortly after 3.30pm on Saturday, but Mr Blanc is thought to have died instantly.

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Hunter gored to death by cornered deer

‘Normally the animal would flee, but this time he decided to charge. It came after him’

  • Chris Baynes
  • stag.jpg
  • A hunter has died after he “was charged and pierced by a deer which stabbed him with his antlers”.

    Regis Levasseur had cornered the animal in France’s Compiegne forest, about 50 miles north-east of Paris.

    Police said 62-year-old had been acting as a beater, who help to flush out and corner prey, during the hunt. He was unarmed.

    “Normally the animal would flee, but this time he decided to charge,” Guy Harlé, president of the local hunters’ federation told The Local. “It came after him.

    “The antlers of the stag are like many knives piercing you, there is nothing you can do. This tragic accident reminds us that we do not play with a wild animal. There is an inherent risk with hunting.”

    Mr Levasseur had reportedly been due to get married in the next few months.

    “For him, hunting was more than a hobby; it was his life,” said Mr Harlé.

    Footage of a cornered stag, later shot dead at close range by hunters in Lacroix-Saint-Ouen, caused uproar in France (Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis)

    The killing came days after French hunters with hounds sparked uproar by shooting dead an exhausted stag at close range after cornering it in the garden of a house on the edge of Compiegne forest.

    The hunters reportedly fed the animal’s carcass to their dogs after killing it in the village of Lacroix-Saint-Ouen.

    Footage of the cornered stag, filmed by anti-hunt activists, prompted France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot to criticise hunting with hounds as “a practice from another century”.

Deer gores French hunter in deadly attack

LILLE, France – A 62-year-old man died while taking part in a hunt in the Paris area Monday after being charged by a deer that fatally gored him, police said.

The incident occurred around 10 am (0900 GMT) in the Compiegne national park, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) northeast of Paris.

The man was acting as a beater when he was struck. He “was charged and pierced by a deer which stabbed him with his antlers,” a police spokesman said.

The hunter, who was not carrying a rifle, died of internal bleeding before emergency services could arrive. Police said this type of death was “uncommon”.