The French government has announced that it will not look to introduce a ban on hunting on Sundays but will seek to pass legislation on 14 new measures aimed at improving safety surrounding the practice.
Anti-hunting organisations such as France nature environnement have been calling for a Sunday hunting ban and a recent Ifop survey of 1,000 people representative of the French population suggested that 78% of people are in favour of the idea.
However, Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu said on Friday (January 6): “We cannot go along as if ringfencing one half day solves the whole problem.”
Today (January 9) Secretary of State for Ecology Bérangère Couillard also dismissed the idea of a Sunday hunting ban but outlined other measures including breathalyser tests for hunters, improved training and a location app which would enable members of the public to see when a hunt is happening near them in a statement.
The subject of a hunt-free day could, however, still be discussed in parliament in the near future as Europe Écologie - Les Verts MP Charles Fournier is putting forward a bill calling for a ban on hunting on weekends and public and school holidays. This has been first introduced by former presidential candidate Yannick Jadot.
An app for locating hunts
The government says that it is developing a smartphone app which would collate information on hunts taking place around the country and centralise it on a single platform.
Members of the public should be able to check the app to find out if there is a hunt taking place near them – and when – from this autumn.
President of the Fédération nationale des chasseurs Willy Schraen has criticised the idea, saying: “It would be better to make an app in which the areas where hunting does not take place are mapped out.
“A mapping system is different to an app, especially when half of France’s rural areas are not covered by the internet.”
Clear and standardised signposting
People walking in hunting areas should also be more clearly notified of a hunt taking place by the introduction of standardised signs to be rolled out by September 2025.
The ecology ministry has also stated that each mairie will put up notices displaying the area’s hunt days.
Changes to training programmes
The government also aims to reinforce the training given to hunters every 10 years by introducing a “period of practical handling”. Previously, hunters were only reminded of the theory surrounding the practice.
There are also plans for obligatory training sessions for hunt organisers.
“Between now and 2025, all hunt organisers (around 200,000 people) will have benefited from a training session from federations, developed with the Office français de la biodiversité and reminding them, primarily, of the safety rules and the need for communication with residents,” the ecology ministry has said in a statement.
It had previously been predicted that hunters would also need a medical certificate in order to obtain their hunting permit but this was not listed in the government’s planned measures.
Franceinfo reports that this may be because of opposition from the health ministry, which is eager not to add to the workload of medical professionals.
Stricter safety measures
The government promised to introduce a specific penalty for hunting under the influence of alcohol.
A government source has told Franceinfo that any hunter found with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.5g per litre of blood (more than around two glasses of wine) will be banned from hunting.
“I am delighted,” Mr Schraen said. “We will finally move away from the [stereotype] in which people think we are all alcoholics and barbarians. I have no problem with this.”
Standardising safety rules
The French state is also planning to standardise safety rules across the country from the 2023-24 season.
This will mean that every hunting federation will have to enforce measures such as the 30 degree rule, which forbids hunters from shooting in the 30 degrees on either side of their field of vision.
Fluorescent jackets and a reminder of safety rules before each hunt would also be mandatory across the country.
“If the state wants to labour the point – like with alcohol – by saying that we should respect the 30 degree rule when hunting, then why not?” Mr Schraen said.
Harsher penalties for accidents
Finally, the government is planning to make the punishment for hunters who cause accidents more severe, “depending on the seriousness of their rule breaking”.
Hunters who have ignored safety rules may, perhaps, have their permits taken away and be banned from retaking their test for a set amount of time.
Records of the people in France who possess guns will also be improved, along with the register of people who are banned from carrying arms.
Hunting accidents declining but higher last year
Over the last 20 years, the number of hunting accidents has fallen by 46%, and the number of deaths by 74%, the Office français de la biodiversité states.
However, there were still 90 accidents in the 2021-22 season, and eight deaths, two of them members of the public. This is compared to 80 accidents and seven deaths in 2020-21. So far this season there have been 35 people injured and three killed.
Some of the people who have been killed in recent years include a young woman who was out hiking and a man who was chopping wood on his own land.