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Contender
February 1, 2002, 07:28 PM
After two decades of delay France finally agrees to anti-hunting laws
By John Lichfield in Paris
30 January 2002
After 23 years of procrastination and hair-splitting, the French government has finally agreed to implement a European law which protects wild birds from hunters for much of the year.

But French hunters' groups yesterday threatened to ignore the government's decree and continue shooting wild geese, ducks and other waterfowl when the season closes on Friday, a month earlier than usual.

With presidential elections approaching, it seems certain the controversy will be exploited by extremist pro-hunting groups with connections with the far right. The hunters accuse the Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, of surrendering to his Green allies, even though the EU wild birds directive was first approved by a centre-right French government in 1979.

All EU governments, including France, accepted that the migratory birds belonged to the continent, rather than individual countries and regions, and should be protected during their periods of migration and breeding. France has failed to apply the law until now, despite several European Court rulings against it. There has been violence in wildfowl hunting areas along the French western seaboard. Last year 12 hunters invaded a bird sanctuary in the Loire estuary and killed more than 100 protected and inedible birds. In other incidents, a bird sanctuary headquarters was burnt down, a Socialist MP in the Somme estuary was pelted with stones and a senior official of a bird protection organisation was beaten up.

The Jospin government has been trying to find compromise dates acceptable to Brussels and the hunting groups. These efforts collapsed last week when the French government watchdog, the Conseil d'Etat, ruled that the EU directive was binding and must be applied virtually in its entirety.

Since the more militant hunters rejected the compromise, the government decided to abandon further efforts to placate them. It announced that France would fall in line with the EU directive and ban the hunting of more than two dozen species of migratory birds – from geese and ducks to egrets, herons and woodcocks – during their breeding and migrating seasons. In future, hunting of these species will be allowed in France only from 1 September to 31 January.

The hunters said they had traditional rights to shoot the birds in August and February.

The problem for Mr Jospin is that hunting is largely a working-class sport in France. The controversy has opened a cultural gulf between the left-voting, rural working class and the urban, ecologically minded middle-class supporters of the Socialists and Greens.

The conflict has been exploited by a relatively new movement – Chasse, Peche, Nature, Tradition (hunting, fishing, nature and tradition) – several of whose leaders have previously been involved with the French far right.

The group scored 6.8 per cent of the vote in the European elections in 1999 and topped the poll in some hunting districts of Normandy and the Somme.

By taking away rural votes which might otherwise have gone to the left, the movement could play a pivotal role in the presidential and parliamentary elections in April, May and June next year.

Fuzzy
February 1, 2002, 11:19 PM
Hmmm... It's hard to be sure how to feel about this. Wildlife management is a tricky issue. It needs to be done is a way that is much less political so that hunters are allowed to hunt but wildlife populations remain stable. We all know that species can be hunted to extention if hunters aren't given seasons and limits.

It's hard to tell from the article but it seems to me that the seasons for these birds are set in stone and can't change from year to year which doesn't seem like a good idea. Many factors, hunting being only one, contribute to the fluxuations in wildlife populations. Out here in Arizona, rainfall is the biggest factor. A few really dry years in a row can cause pretty big drops in all wildlife populations.

I think our system is pretty good over here. A federal wildlife management system to control migratory birds and state game and fish departments to handle non-migratory animals.

Sure, it occasionally gets political over here, but in general it works well.

Art Eatman
February 2, 2002, 12:17 PM
Part of the problem is the "one size fits all" aspect of the EU legislating.

Looking at the list of sought-after species, the French hunters are apparently taking some birds for the feathers--which is not allowed, here. Egrets, for instance.

I'm certainly in favor of protecting any bird species during the nesting season. However, I'm not sure about the objection to hunting during the migration period.

The political repercussions appear interesting. Sorta like K-Mart and Rosie. :)

Art

Salt
February 2, 2002, 12:40 PM
The so called "Greens" are like watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.

Anyway, these urban Greenies are disguising animal rights as conservation. The laws are not about preserving species as they are about urban effettes passing anti-hunting laws.

BTW, the hard left has been in control of much of Europe for too many decades. A moderate GOPer like George Bush is considered "extreme right" by the vast majority of Europeans.