Hunting for large game permitted in France despite lockdown

The exception to the lockdown law was granted this weekend, with pro-hunters saying it does not go far enough but animal welfare campaigners dubbing it a “scandal”

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Hunting for “large, nuisance species” of game is permitted again in France after an exception to lockdown was granted, as some proponents say it should go further, but anti-hunting groups have dubbed it a “scandal”.

From Saturday November 7, hunters have been allowed to hunt large species such as boar and deer - but “hunting for leisure” is not allowed. In most areas, only species deemed “nuisance” are covered by the exception.

Junior minister for biodiversity, Bérengère Abba, permitted prefects to allow hunting to regulate large game, but not to permit hunting for leisure.

Vincent Filon, a farmer in Haute-Saône, who is not a farmer himself, told news service FranceInfo: “November and December are major hunting periods in normal times.

“If we stop hunting for a month, a month and a half, that will be 2,000-2,500 boars which will not be killed, and we risk seeing major damage to crops that have just been sown in October.”

Yet, some hunting advocates have called for the exception to go further. Authorities in some departments - including in Pas-de-Calais - have taken out decrees that allow more species to be targeted.

Willy Shraen, president of hunting group la fédération des chasseurs, confirmed that he is permitted to hunt “all nuisance species”, including wood pigeon and magpies.

He said: “As soon as you speak of [banning the hunt of] other species than large game, we have a block. There are departments where, I’m sorry, but boar are not the main issue with damage. It is other species.

“We have had to adapt this exception, but then we find ourselves in opposition with ministry people who tell us it’s out of the question. Well, why write [the exception] then?”

Animal welfare groups: 'Scandal'

But animal welfare campaigners have accused these hunters of wanting to “blur the lines” between permitted hunting for regulatory purposes, and hunting for leisure.

Some hunting federations, including that of the Landes department, have suggested that hunting is allowed under lockdown rules, “as long as people do it within one kilometre of their home and within one hour”, according to a recorded message by the Landes hunting federation.

This would suggest that hunting is allowed “as an exercise activity” under the rules of lockdown.

This has been disputed by animal welfare groups, including bird protection association la Ligue de protection des oiseaux (LPO), which has said it will fight the decrees that extend the exception.

LPO director general, Yves Verhillac, said: “The decrees in the vast majority of prefects and departments are fine, and we will not attack them. But there are some departments where, demonstrably, we have hunting authorisations where we should not.

“We are seeing a scandal from the hunting lobby.”

Eco party Europe écologie-Les verts (EELV) has also denounced the exception, saying that it is causing inequality in people’s access to the outdoors during lockdown.

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