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French election candidates meet hunters: what are they proposing?

Two candidates were deliberately not invited to the hunting union’s congress, having been accused of ‘spitting’ on the activity and creating opposition to it 

Hunting is France’s third most licence-registered activity behind football and fishing Pic: Photoagriculture / Shutterstock

Four presidential candidates attended the main French hunting union’s national congress yesterday (March 22) in Paris to present their related proposals. Two other candidates were represented by party members.

However, not all the 12 candidates were invited to attend with Yannick Jadot (ecologist Europe-Ecologie Les Verts) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) deliberately left off the list by the Fédération nationale des chasseurs.

“When someone spits in your face repeatedly while having never engaged in a discussion, It is hard to give them a platform to speak,” said Thierry Coste, political adviser to the Fédération nationale des chasseurs, on the French radio station France Info.

Conservative presidential candidates Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains), communist Jean Roussel (Parti communiste), Eric Zemmour, (Reconquête!) and Jean Lassalle (Résistons!) attended in person while far-right Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National) and President-candidate Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche) were represented by party officials.

Hunting has become a hot topic in the election (as it often has before), especially after the February death of a 25-year-old hiker who was killed by a stray bullet in the Cantal region. This came in the context of several other incidents which had served to stir up the debate.

The French senate also spent weeks hearing from ‘Un jour, un chasseur’, a petition created by friends of 25-year-old Morgan Keane that was shot dead while chopping wood and signed by 120,000 people. The petition called for stricter safety rules.

Read more: ‘Our friend was killed by French hunter, stricter controls are vital’

The hunting community is believed to account for one million potential voters, an appealing body for presidential candidates as they look to increase their share of the vote. 

Far-right and conservative candidates have spoken in defence of hunting’s traditional and cultural significance, while candidates such as Yannick Jadot, Fabien Roussel, Anne Hidalgo and Jean-Luc Mélenchon have demanded tougher regulations and restrictions on activities.

Candidates who have spoken out on the subject

Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National)

  • “I consider hunting to be one of France’s most ancestral traditions,” Ms Le Pen said on France Inter radio in the days following the 25-year-old hiker’s death, a quote in a similar line with Ms Pécresse. 
  • Against restrictions
  • Believes that it is not only hunters who should have to pay for damage caused by hunting activities 

Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains)

  • Ms Pécresse said the hunting industry should not be submitted to more regulation, adding hunting was a practice inherited from the Revolution period. 
  • She does however support introducing hunt-free days in natural reserves.
  • “Banning hunting during the weekend equals banning hunting completely,” said Ms Pécresse on French radio France Inter
  • In favour of departments deciding on a distribution of time and land which would suit local people
  • In favour of the state taking on 50% of the cost of compensating landowners for damage caused through hunting

Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!) 

  • Mr Zemmour qualified hunting as “a pillar” of the country and is against any ban or regulation
  • Proposes the creation of a rural areas ministry grouping together farming and hunting, an idea which has also been suggested by Ms Pécresse and Mr Roussel
  • Told the hunters’ union: “We must put ecology back into everything, and not just an isolated ministry which, dare I say it, is ‘firing’ at all traditional activities: agriculture, fishing, hunting etc.”
  • Would look to cap compensation paid by hunters for damage caused by their activities

Jean Lassalle (Résistons!)

  • Mr Lassalle, another strong defender of hunting activities, said it was part of France’s “national heritage”
  • Against the introduction into nature of predatory species like bears, lynxes and wolves, so as not to threaten transhumance practices

Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche)

  • President-candidate Emmanuel Macron is said to be close to the hunting community, Mr Coste confirming that he had backed the more than 30 proposals the union has raised over the last five years. 
  • Mr Coste said he will soon put forward six other hunting proposals, suggesting that the president reacted favourably to the others. 
  • Mr Macron has described hunting as a “lifestyle” while lowering the cost of licence-ownership from €400 to €200. 
  • He has not targeted the hunting industry in his 2022 campaign proposals.

Fabien Roussel (Parti communiste)

  • Mr Roussel supports the hunters, unlike other leftist candidates, telling Franceinfo he was “fed up by condescending intellectuals patronising and lecturing,” last October. 
  • Told France Inter that “hunters are essential for the preservation of our environment.”
  • He has criticised the “anti-hunt movement” of which he is “not a part.”

Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte ouvrière) 

  • In favour of a hunting ban two days a week including Sundays 
  • Wants to prohibit fox hunting with hounds, calling it a “cruel sport”

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France)

  • Signed the Référendum pour les Animaux, a collective of associations which brought forward six proposed laws to raise awareness on animal-welfare, saying that a national debate was required on the issue. 
  • The Référendum pour les Animaux wants a ban on fox-hunting, an end to intensive farming, fur farming, cage farming, animal shows and animal experimentation.

 Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)

  • Has suggested hunt-free days and a ban on certain hunting practices 

Why were not all the candidates invited?

“When someone spits in your face repeatedly while having never engaged in a discussion, It is hard to give them a platform to speak,” said Thierry Coste, political adviser to the Fédération nationale des chasseurs, to French radio France Info.

Spokespeople for Yannick Jadot and Jean-Luc Mélenchon have not yet responded to requests for comment when approached by The Connexion

Mr Jadot and Mélenchon are among two of the fiercest opponents of hunting, and having proposed banning hunting activities on the weekend and during school holidays. Both want to ban fox-hunting and cock-fighting activities.

Mr Mélenchon wants to ban practices which involve blocking up an animal’s den as part of a hunt.

Mr Jadot goes even further with his regulation proposals, requesting tougher sanctions for hunters involved in accidents and a hunting licence that would be doubly as expensive and renewed every five years rather than remaining valid for life. 

He also proposed the creation of a ministry dedicated to animal welfare, an idea also explored by animal-rights candidate Hélène Thouy (who did not receive enough support from officials to stand).

Read more: Animal rights candidate lacks support to stand in French election

Socialist party candidate Anne Hidalgo said she wanted to distance herself from Mr Jadot’s firm line, opposing him on the weekend and school holiday ban, spokeswoman Carole Delga told French radio France Bleu.

Other than that, she has not made direct comments on the subject.

Read more: Have hunting accidents become more or less frequent in France?

How many hunters are there in France?

There were 1,170,000 ‘active’ hunters in France in 2019 with more than one million having taken the licensing test, according to figures provided by Barnes Propriétés & Châteaux, a real estate agency. 

Some 1.13 million hunters were listed by the Fédération nationale des chasseurs between 2016 and 2017. 

Hunting is France’s third most licence-registered activity behind football and fishing but has been declining over the last 40 years after reaching an all-time high of 2,219,051 registered hunters  in 1976, according to the union. 

Related articles

French woman says she was ‘treated like criminal’ after saving a boar

Hunter killed by stray bullet during hunt in central France

Calls for hunt-free day in France multiply after hiker, 25, killed

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