Hunters should join together in partnership with local authorities to help police “environmental and rural delinquency”, the head of the French hunting federation has said, as debates on hunting continue.
Willy Schraen, controversial president of the Fédération nationale des chasseurs, told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview that he wanted to offer a “partnership deal” to local elected officials, as hunters have “a role to play in terms of local policing”.
Hunters could help prevent delinquency in the countryside and “contribute to the surveillance of areas”, he explained.
He said: “Within the federation, we have ‘development agents’. These are trained and certified professionals who already intervene in certain communes that have requested them for the regulation of certain harmful species.”
These agents "could, in the future, under the control of the state and the mayors, have broader missions to deal with illegal rubbish dumps, domestic animal straying, problems linked to the presence of motorised vehicles in the forest in sensitive areas, etc.
“It would be a matter of drawing up official reports and noting flagrant offences,” he said.
It comes as hunting has been high on the news agenda for the past few weeks, after several high-profile accidents, including the death of a 67-year-old passing driver from a stray ricocheting bullet, south of Rennes.
Similarly, a 29-year-old hunter was taken to hospital in a critical condition after being accidentally shot in the chest during a private hunt on November 7, in the Landricourt forest in Aisne (Hauts-de-France).
And a few days earlier, in Indre-et-Loire (Centre-Val de Loire), a vehicle belonging to a retired couple was shot on a departmental road. The couple pulled over and realised in shock that there was a bullet lodged into the rear headlamp and the petrol reservoir of their car.
The 75-year-old shooter then emerged in shock, and said he had been aiming at a deer on the other side of the road. His bullet reportedly ricocheted on an obstacle before hitting the car.
At the same time, a petition calling for two hunt-free days in France has now reached more than 100,000 signatures, meaning its proposals will now be debated in the Senate.
The proposals also include calls for stricter training and security rules for hunters, better regulation of hunting weapons, heavier penalties for hunters who injure or kill others, and more recognition for victims.
The petition was launched by friends of 25-year-old Morgan Keane, who was shot and killed by a hunter while chopping wood in his own garden in Lot in 2020.
More calls for hunting regulation
Mayors in Brittany specifically have this weekend chastised what they see as inaction by public authorities to regulate hunting properly.
Françoise Louapre, mayor of Laillé in Ille-et-Vilaine, has taken out a decree banning hunting within 150 metres of homes, and all use of rifles in most of the commune.
She said: “We want legislative decisions. We are not anti-hunting, we are not pro-hunting. We [just] want to change practices.”
Ms Louapre added that she felt that some hunting was necessary, for example where there is an "overpopulation of wild boars" that destroy crops.
Yet, she and four other mayors of the department are calling for the introduction of medical certificates for hunters, better supervision of the use of rifles (whose range can reach 2km), and the introduction of half-days without hunting on Saturdays and Sundays.
The letter continued that “urgent and effective management of the overpopulation of wild boar" was needed, alongside "a halt to the breeding of wild boar in certain private hunting grounds".
A demonstration of around 100 people also took place in front of Laillé town hall on Saturday, as protesters called for more drastic measures to limit hunting.
Jimmy Nedellec, of the Forest Shepherd collective, was at the protest, to call for a "moratorium on hunting in the town" and a ban on shooting within 500 metres of gardens.
He told FranceInfo: "For us, [this municipal decree to ban hunting within 150 metres of homes] is a step forward, but it's not enough. We want it to go much further.”
‘Say goodbye to your hunting licence’
When asked about the recent accidents, Mr Schraen said that he felt they had been “given far too much media attention”.
Yet, he said that he “obviously” deplored the incidents, and that he was fighting "every day to ensure that this does not happen again", including the offering of "intensive safety training" by his federation.
He also said he was in favour of withdrawing hunting licences "if someone kills or seriously injures a person by committing a serious fault".
This is in contrast to the rules today, which state that “[the licence] is simply withdrawn for a given period”. He said that he wanted the rules to be changed so that “if it is proven that you have made a mistake, then you will have to say goodbye to your hunting licence”.
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