Number of fatal hunting accidents in France at historic low

Other hunting related accidents are also down, a new report shows - however environmental groups say more needs to be done to reduce risks

A ‘hunting reserve’ sign in a field in France
The number of fatal hunting accidents in France fell to its lowest ever in 2023-2023
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The number of fatal and non-fatal hunting accidents in France fell to an historic low over the 2022-2023 season, data from the latest official report shows.

The figures come from the annual report published each year by the Office Français de la Biodiversité (French Office for Biodiversity, OFB), and this year released on Wednesday, August 23.

The report shows that six people died in hunting accidents over the season, a drop from eight the previous year. Similarly the number of non-fatal accidents dropped from 90 to 78.

The number of incidents “likely to have endangered people or property” also fell from 104 to 84. This would include, for example, shots fired in the direction of people or pets. The OFB said these incidents were “almost systematically” caused by hunters failing to adhere to “the essential safety rules”.

The new figures reveal a continuing trend of fewer accidents. The number of fatal accidents has dropped by 80% over the past 20 years, and the number of non-fatal accidents by 62% over the same period.

Read more: Hunters who receive state funding in France must report how it is used

Increase in large game hunts

The report also showed that the number of large game hunted has increased by over 50% in the past 20 years.

More than 1,500,000 large game animals were hunted in the 2022-2023 season, including 800,000 boars, it said.

Accidents are most likely to happen during these hunts, it added.

Read more: Hunter, 56, dies after being shot by fellow hunter in South East France

Anti-accident measures getting results

The fall in accidents is due to measures implemented over the past 20 years, the OFB said.

These include a change in hunting practices, such as training and training and awareness programmes; more checks on licences and hunting areas; recent changes in regulation and legislation; more safety plans, and increased hunting permit tests.

It said that these measures appeared to be having a long-lasting impact on the number of accidents and called for them to be continued and increased, with the aim of reducing the number of annual accidents to zero.

Read more: Have hunting accidents become more or less frequent in France?

Most accidents happen on weekends

For the animal protection group Association pour la protection des animaux sauvages (Aspas), though, the figures are no cause for celebration. Hunting remains “the only leisure activity in France which generates so many tragedies and such feelings of danger among non-participants,” it wrote in response to the latest report.

It also pointed out that the OFB did not specify how many non-hunters were injured – only that all of those who died were hunters. “According to Aspas’s media monitoring, the accidents included at least 22 people not involved in hunting.

“In 2022-23, hunters injured cyclists, hikers, mushroom foragers, people out on Sunday strolls.”

The charity is calling for hunting to be banned on Sundays – the day when half of all accidents happen, according to its analysis of 48 accidents reported in the media. The results of an Ifop survey published in January showed that 78% of French people would be in favour of the measure.

High-profile hunting accidents

The report comes amid a time of increased debate around the safety of hunting in France.

Several high-profile accidents and fatalities have hit the headlines in recent months and years, including the death of a driver who was in his car on a motorway when he was fatally shot by a ricocheting bullet and a young hiker who was with her partner on a marked trail when she was killed.

Another story recounted a young family who were left terrified after a stray bullet smashed and entered their kitchen window as they were sitting at the table with their baby; another group were driving in their car when a bullet embedded itself in their vehicle; and in one tragic case, a French husband accidentally killed his British wife while on a hunt.

Similarly, friends and family of Morgan Keane, who was killed by a hunting bullet while chopping wood in his garden, have also called for increased gun control and more anti-hunting measures.

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