The French government has angered anti-hunting campaigners after it refused to ban hunting on Sundays during the season.
Instead, it announced a ban on drinking alcohol and drugs while hunting, which activists say is permanent, and will set up a voluntary application for hunters to indicate where they are active.
Beranger Couillard, the Minister of Ecology, said that the organizers of the hunts will have to undergo training and that there will be stricter penalties for those convicted of causing accidents.
The government bowed to pressure to address hunting safety following a Senate inquiry into the death of Morgan Keen, 25, a French-British man who was killed in December 2020 while cutting wood on his land by a hunter who mistook him for a wild boar.
The hunter who fired the fatal shot, Julien Ferrall, went on trial along with hunt organizer Laurent Lapergue, 51, in November on charges of manslaughter. The verdict is expected on Thursday.
Anti-hunting campaigners called for at least one non-hunting day a week during the season and were optimistic that the government, although largely sympathetic to the powerful hunting lobby, would agree.
According to data published in September 2022 by the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), which issues hunting permits, during the 2021-22 season. there were 90 accidents, six more than the previous season, eight of which were fatal.
During the past 20 years, 88% of the victims of hunting accidents were hunters themselves. As the government prepared on Monday to announce measures to make hunting safer, an 84-year-old hunter was reported to have fatally shot himself in Corsica while putting his gun away in his car. Over the weekend, two more accidents were reported involving two hunters, one 19 years old and the other 67 years old.
However, the number of injured transients or non-hunting transients has increased from 12% to 26% of the total over the past two decades, according to OFB data.
“For the vast majority, they [the accidents] are the result of human errors associated with non-observance of basic safety rules,” OFB said.
In October 2021, Joël Viard, 67, was killed when a stray hunter’s bullet hit him in the neck while driving on the highway from Rennes to Nantes. The hunter is under investigation for manslaughter.
In February 2022, a stray bullet from a hunter killed Melody Koffe (25), who was walking with a friend on a forest path in Averon.
Before Monday’s announcement, the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) told the government it would face an outcry if it did not address anger over hunting-related deaths. The alcohol ban was said to be “ridiculous”.
“If the hunting safety plan ends up being a few small measures like a ban on drunken hunting – which is the least it can do – or the idea of a voluntary mobile app for hunters to post their whereabouts, the government will greatly disappoint four out of five French people who want a week without hunting,” Mathieu Orfelin, director general of the LPO, told Monde.
Couillard said the government’s goal was “a move towards zero accidents”, which the head of France’s National Federation of Hunters, Willy Schran, said was an impossible goal.
“Half of all hunters should be trained between now and 2025, and all by 2029,” Couillard told reporters.
Shran warned that there would be “fire and brimstone” across the countryside if the government acceded to activists’ demands for no-hunting days.
An Ipsos poll in September showed that 81% of French people are in favor of banning hunting two days a week during the season and during school holidays; 87% of respondents said that hunting is a safety risk for people walking.
Muriel Arnal, president of animal rights group One Voice, said there was “a huge gap between these small measures, which will do nothing to solve the problem [hunting] the problem and expectations of the French people”.
She added that the government has shown “a lack of understanding of the reality of hunting, a leisure activity that endangers the lives of people who do not participate”.
Couillard argued that there is no evidence that banning hunting on Sunday would reduce the number of accidents.
Mila Sanchez, co-founder of Un jour un chasseur and a friend of Keane’s, disagreed. “The figures the minister is relying on do not take fatal accidents into account.” “We compiled articles on 83 accidents during the 2022-2023 season, and the results show that 57 happened on the weekend, 39 of them on Sundays,” said Sanchez.
Organization tweeted: “Well done to the government for introducing completely useless measures.”