An 82-year-old hunter has been killed in a hunting accident in Brittany, in the latest high-profile incident during a time of intense debate about the sport in France.
The man died on Thursday, December 2, after having been accidentally shot during a game hunt on private land in Tourc’h, in Finistère, gendarmerie reported.
The shooter, a fellow hunter in his fifties, is now in custody. He accidentally hit the octogenarian from the opposite side of a pond.
A gendarmerie inquiry into the incident has now been opened.
It comes after a spate of serious hunting accidents in recent months, which have reignited the debate over the controversial-yet-popular practice.
In October, a 67-year-old driver was fatally injured by a ricocheting bullet from a nearby hunt near the small commune of Laillé while he drove on a dual-carriageway. In early November, a 47-year-old man was seriously injured after being shot in the face in a hunting accident in Occitanie.
Just before that, a 29-year-old man was in a critical condition in hospital after being accidentally shot in the chest during a private hunt in Hauts-de-France.
A few days earlier, in Indre-et-Loire, a vehicle belonging to retired couple Hélène and Michel Hymer was shot while the pair were driving on a departmental road.
And in December last year, a 25-year-old man was killed while in his own garden, by a stray hunting bullet, leading six of his friends to campaign for a change to hunting laws.
As a result of the recent death in Brittany, a group of five local mayors – led by mayor of Laillé, Françoise Louapre – wrote an open letter to authorities to call for more national regulations around the practice.
The letter called for authorities to “take all the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of our citizens”.
Similarly, former mayor and now vice-president of the Rennes metropole, Pascal Hervé, has said: “People come to live in our towns because they want to walk and be close to nature. They don’t want to see guns everywhere.”
Ms Louapre, who is herself an organic chicken farmer and daughter of a hunter, has taken out a decree banning the use of rifles (with a range of up to 2 km) in the commune as well as hunting within 150 metres of houses.
Yet, she said: "We are not anti-hunting, we don't want to antagonise hunters.”
However, the move has already proven controversial in the commune, with owners of the 16 private hunts in the area saying that they will stop hunting wild boar as a result, which may cause knock-on effects for local farmers, who want to keep boar numbers down.
The hunting of boar is in itself highly-debated.
Ms Louapre has said that “asking hunters to regulate the population of boar, which is one of their favourite animals [to hunt], is like asking children to regulate their consumption of sugar in a sweet factory”.
Since the year 2000, the number of boar killed in Brittany has increased by five (4,388 killed in 2020-2021), but this has not, critics say, led to a reduction in damage to crops (with €333,142 worth of damage reported in 2018-2019).
Some suggest this is because the owners of private hunts raise their own game on their grounds.
André Douard, president of the regional hunting federation, said that agricultural practices had themselves contributed to the increase in the wild boar population, and retorted that “everyone has a responsibility” to improve the situation.
He said that he was prepared to work with the mayor, and could agree to half-day bans on hunting “on a case by case basis”.
Meetings between authorities in Laillé with hunters, farmers, and local residents have not yet achieved any kind of resolution.
First mayoral deputy, Anne Chatelain Le Couriaud, said: "We don't have much authority on hunting, other than to [try to] bring people together. That's why we have to find a consensus.”
Meanwhile, on a national scale, Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili has said she would be in favour of a hunting ban at the weekends, to reduce the risk of injury to countryside walkers.
Green presidential candidate Yannick Jadot has also said he would push for a ban on hunting during the weekend and school holidays.
Speaking on FranceInfo, Ms Pompili said: "This is a long-running debate on the question of sharing space. We must have a debate, but most people have no desire to [completely] ban hunting.”
The Senate is set to debate hunting rules, after a petition calling for two hunt-free days per week reached 100,000 signatures.