'Give French countryside sounds protected status'

Mayor calls on MPs to make sounds of the French countryside to be listed as part of the country's 'national heritage'

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Complaints about rural noise have driven the mayor of one French village to call for the sounds of the countryside to be listed as part of the country's 'national heritage'.

In an open letter, Bruno Dionis du Séjour, mayor of the 386-population Gajac in the Gironde, urged MPs to apply for rural sounds - such as cockerels crowing and frogs croaking - to be declared part of France’s intangible cultural heritage by Unesco.

He said he had been spurred into action after a string of complaints over the noise of rural life from new arrivals to villages across France.

The UN’s cultural and scientific arm has registered 508 traditional practices from 122 countries since 2003. Protected items include Colombian ritual chants, Spanish drums, and Jamaican reggae.

"Today farmers are being questioned because their cows are mooing, neighbours or holidaymakers complain about the smell and noise of animals," he said.

In November 2017, a farmer in the Haute-Loire faced prosecution after he refused to comply with an order to remove the bells from his herd of cows. A month later, a Dordogne couple were told to empty their pond after neighbours complained about the noise made by frogs.

More recently, villagers voted in a local referendum to keep early morning church bells ringing following a complaint from one resident.

Mr du Séjour had originally called for heritage protection during the grand debat, and his stance has picked up support from more than 30 mayors across the Gironde, as well as a local senator and MPs.

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