A man living in southwest France has appeared in court after a dispute broke out with a holiday home neighbour over his allegedly noisy cockerel.
The neighbours live in Oursbelille, Hautes-Pyrénées. The accused, who owns a cockerel named Pitikok, appeared in court in Tarbes after his neighbour called for the bird to be removed, despite the owner claiming that the complainant only visits twice a year.
The accused told AFP: “It all started in 2019. The owner of the neighbouring house…who comes twice a year on holiday to Oursbelille, came to see me…to ask me to get rid of my rooster.
The man’s lawyer, Stéphane Jaffrain said: “Once more, we have these ‘neo-rural’ people who come to the countryside, who barely like the natural sounds.
“They did seem to reach an agreement but it was short-lived because the only thing being suggested is that we get rid of the bird.”
The owner is categorically refusing to get rid of the animal.
The neighbour is also claiming €6,000 in damages and interest, for “neighbour troubles”, plus €100 per day for every day the owner does not comply with an eventual court order.
A decision is expected on June 7.
The neighbour’s lawyer, Anne Bacarat, said: “For my client, [this] causes real suffering. He suffers from cancer, heart problems, tinnitus and he wears a hearing aid.”
‘Have a good journey!’
It comes as the mayor of Noyen-sur-Sarthe, a 2,700-inhabitant town in Pays de la Loire in northwest France, has created a series of humorous signs that aim to improve “cohabitation” between local residents and out-of-town, urban visitors.
Since the health crisis, more people have been coming to the town, but this has caused a rise in complaints about everything from cockerel crows to church bell ringing; and a petition against passing heavy-goods trucks and tractors, which has not been welcomed by some locals.
One resident told France 3: “Town people, they must know that when they come to live in the countryside - they might have had the noise of cars, but we have the noise of cockerels and bells. They have to accept what was here first.”
Another resident, called André, said: “Yes, trucks pass, but not at night. They pass during the day, from about 05:00 or 06:00. Tractors are the same. If we want food on our plates, then they [the farmers and truck drivers] have to work.”
Another, who has lived in the town since 1971, said: “It’s a shame. Those who complain would be better off going back to Paris.”
Now, mayor Jean-Louis Morice has responded to the complaints with humorous-yet-sincere messages.
The signs and flyers explain, with images, what visitors may expect to find in the area, including trucks that “our business owners, artisans and manufacturers use to deliver”, and tractors that “our farmers use to work every day to feed us”.
The posters conclude with: “If you appreciate all this, you are welcome. If you are allergic, have a good journey [as you leave!].”
Mr Morice told France 3: “Until two years ago, we had no problems; no one complained. I think today we have a complete lack of knowledge about the countryside. Before [years ago], I think many people had farmers in their family [but do not now].
“Maybe people who live in big towns think, ‘We are a bit sick of cars, we will go to the countryside where we won’t hear anything except birdsong’ – but the countryside is not at all like that.”
Countryside complaints and controversy
The cases are the latest in a series of complaints and controversies over countryside – and specifically, cockerel – noises in rural France in the past few years.
In 2019, Régis Bourelly, the mayor of picturesque Saint-André-de-Valborgne (Gard), installed signs saying: "Enter at your own risk," and warning visitors that church bells ring regularly, cockerels crow, farm animals live close by, and that farmers tend to drive agricultural vehicles along the roads in the area.
The same year, the mayor of another French village called for the sounds of the countryside to be listed as part of the country's 'national heritage', while in November 2017, a farmer in the Haute-Loire faced prosecution after he refused to comply with an order to remove the bells from his herd of cows.
A month later, a Dordogne couple were told to empty their pond after neighbours complained about the noise made by frogs.
Also in 2019, a mayor in an Haute-Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) commune took out a decree to preserve “life in the countryside”, and ruled that cockerels were legally free to crow to their heart’s content.
Earlier that year, Île d'Oléron (Charente-Maritime) cockerel “Maurice Le Coq” hit international headlines and became the “most famous cockerel in France” when a court gave its owner 15 days to remove or silence him, after neighbours had complained that his crows were disturbing their sleep.
Elsewhere, villagers voted in a local referendum to keep early morning church bells ringing following a complaint from one resident.
In 2020, Muhlbach-sur-Munster in Haut-Rhin, Grand Est, installed a sign in its main village square, which read: “Beware, you are in the countryside. Here, we have two [church] bells that ring often, roosters that crow early in the morning, and cowherds in the fields with bells around their necks…”
The sign continues: “We have farmers who are working to give you food, artisans who are working for you...if you cannot stand these countryside noises, from a village that wants to develop itself reasonably, that’s up to you...if you cannot stand that others might benefit from our environment, that’s up to you...but respect this area and the people who are used to it all...”
And in late 2020, a cockerel was even the subject of a murder investigation after Marcel the bird was shot dead the May before for “being too noisy”.
Meanwhile, in 2021, French “countryside sounds and smells” were voted as protected heritage by law.