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French mayor decree legally allows noisy cockerels

Noisy countryside cockerels in an Haute-Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) commune are now legally free to crow to their heart’s content after a mayor took out a decree to preserve “life in the countryside”.

Pierre Froelig, mayor of the commune of Saint-Sylvestre, enacted the decree this month.

It comes after one of the commune’s residents, Daniel Bauquis, was ordered to pay €4,000 - including €3,000 in damages and interest - after his neighbours took him to court for the allegedly “too-loud” crowing of his two cockerels.

The neighbours made the complaint after recording noise of “37.9 decibels”, according to Mr Bauquis.

He has now appealed the decision by the Annecy court, and a petition in his favour has gathered more than 21,000 signatures. Mayor Mr Froelig has also come to Mr Bauquis’ defence.

On the petition page, Mr Bauquis has written: "I don't know how this has got to this point. [The neighbours] have never even come to find me to discuss the issue directly."

Mr Froelig said: “[Mr Bauquis] has had enough of this hassle. People who come to live here must realise that we are in the countryside.”

The mayor initially hesitated to take out the decree, as he doubted whether local authorities could manage it, but eventually decided to act (although similar cases have shown that local mayoral decrees can be overturned by the courts in some instances).

The decree reads: “The wellbeing of everyone is built on mutual respect and acceptance of the lifestyle of each person, with respect for individual freedom...the rural character of the commune of Saint-Sylvestre [and the] noises and intrinsic irritations that come from life in the countryside.”

It comes after Île d'Oléron (‎Charente-Maritime) cockerel “Maurice Le Coq” hit international headlines earlier this year when a court gave its owner 15 days to remove or silence him, after neighbours had complained that his crows were disturbing their sleep.

The initial ruling was later overturned by a court in Rochefort. This second court rejected the neighbours’ complaint, and ordered them to pay €1,000 in damages to the animal's owner, Corinne Fesseau, who was allowed to keep Maurice after all.

In a similar case, another cockerel - Coco, from Margny-lès-Compiègne in the Oise (‎Hauts-de-France) - was the subject of a popular petition after a court ruled the bird was too loud.

It also comes two months after gendarmerie in the Indre-et-Loire reported that a resident had called them after hearing “screams of help”, which actually turned out to be cockerel crows from a nearby yard.

Earlier this 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”.

Other similar cases have been reported in recent years, including a farmer who was ordered (and refused) to remove ringing cowbells from his herd; a Dordogne couple who were ordered to drain their pond of noisy frogs; and one village that even held a local referendum on whether to allow church bells to ring in the morning, after one resident complained.

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