Hunting season is upon us here in France and as usual there are many discussions and arguments already arising about this divisive subject.
I am not intending to start any arguments on my page, but I would like to outline to you some information about the Chasse that many people don't know or realise.
Its a bit of a lengthy read, but i've tried to condense it into information I think is important to note, such as the rules and regulations the chasse must abide to, to the other areas of their work.
The following infromation was taken and translated from the federation national de chasseurs website www.chasseurdefrance.com. This website is extremely informative and interesting and if you want to know more about what La Chasse actually do for our countryside then go and have a good look.
Contrary to popular belief, hunting is not limited to the taking of game. Hunting associations and hunters are present on a daily basis in the rural areas of our country. They are a complete network of observers of the state of the natural environment.
Hunters were among the first citizens to observe and deplore the destruction of natural environments, the degradation of wetlands, the decline of birds and insects, etc. Therefore, at their level of intervention, hunters have invested in the implementation of actions for the restoration and conservation of natural environments. A recent study by BIPE (a consultancy firm specialising in strategic analysis and economic forecasting - approved by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research) estimates that hunters volunteer 78 million hours per year, the equivalent of 57,000 full-time jobs. A significant proportion of this volunteer work is devoted to wildlife and biodiversity conservation.
All natural environments and groups of fauna and flora species are concerned, not exclusively huntable species, but also protected species and invasive alien species.
Hunting has evolved over the centuries, it is rich in codes which often reflect the degree of civilisation of the ages concerned. In France, at the end of the Middle Ages, an attempt was made to limit the practice of hunting and to reserve it for the royal power and the nobility. It was not until the French Revolution that the legislator intervened in favour of hunting for all, while at the same time increasingly regulating its practice. And it was at the end of the 20th century, known as the golden age of hunting, that its practice was challenged and its legitimacy questioned.
However, hunters have never been so involved in the management of nature and wildlife, which can be explained, in part, by the transition from a rural society to an urban society that is totally disconnected from the rhythms and uses of nature... a diversified nature and abundant wildlife, which guarantee sustainable hunting.
The strong concept of property rights was the basis of hunting practice, in order to reserve the appropriation of game to royalty and then to the nobility. This concept was relaxed in the course of history to make way for popular hunting, but this democratisation of hunting gradually undermined the once abundant game. The legal framework for hunting became necessary, and hunters gradually became concerned with the "management" of game. The hunting of game gave way to a reasoned approach to hunting that integrated the need to manage not only the game but also its habitats. Today's hunting largely integrates these two aspects.
Nature is in the hunters' DNA, and they have set up collaborative programmes to act in the service of the environment, quantify their actions, make them known and benefit from an exchange of experience.
The Cyn'action biodiv, launched in 2016, has proven its usefulness. It allows everyone to find out what positive things are happening for biodiversity in their area, through the direct involvement of hunters.
The "Eco-contribution" scheme created by the hunting law of July 2019 is a compulsory endowment from hunters combined with State support in order to finance the implementation of concrete actions proposed by hunters' federations in support of biodiversity.
The Conseil Supérieur de la Chasse, which later became the Office National de la Chasse, then embarked on this path, becoming one of the first and most important employers of wildlife scientists in France (more than 120 engineers and researchers at the ONC, which later became the ONCFS). At the same time, the hunting federations recruited several hundred technicians with degrees in wildlife management who support the scientists of the current French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), conduct field studies and disseminate this new knowledge and the resulting game management tools (hunting plans, species counting methods, health care, development
and management of natural habitats, etc.). This has been going on for almost 50 years!
The French hunting community's investment in scientific knowledge for sustainable management and hunting is therefore very important and will continue to be so. This investment is made possible thanks to the funding provided by hunting licences, thus illustrating a virtuous circle that may be almost unique, where an activity - hunting - self-finances the conservation of the resource it exploits, namely game.
At the initiative of the FNC, the hunting law of 24 July 2019 created a biodiversity fund within the framework of the new French Office for Biodiversity (OFB).
This fund is replenished by an eco-contribution from hunters and the State in order to finance projects carried out by hunting federations for the protection of biodiversity.
The eco-contribution system provides that, when validating the hunting licence, each hunter contributes €5 with a €10 supplement from the State in order to finance concrete actions in favour of biodiversity: planting hedges, restoring forest environments, wetlands, maintaining habitats for wildlife, etc. A total of nearly €15 million per year will be devoted to biodiversity thanks to the actions of hunters through projects submitted by the federations to the OFB.
Throughout the year, hunters intervene in our countryside to preserve the environment, restore its biodiversity and safeguard the fauna, whether or not they are huntable species. Through the national database Cyn'Actions Biodiv' and the eco-contribution system, it is possible to know precisely the hunters' contribution to nature.
Planting hedges and re wilding areas, Re introducing species into areas that have had wildlife decimated by disease, developing, creating and restoring ponds and wetlands, studying the effects of Lynx on big game in the mountains, helping farmers to clear fields of wildlife before crops are cut and fitting wildlife flushing bars to agricultural machinery are just some of the programmes and actions in place around France.
Made compulsory in France in 1978 for certain species, the hunting plan ensures the sustainable development of game populations and preserves their habitats by reconciling agricultural, forestry and hunting interests. It involves allocating a maximum (and often also minimum) quota of a species to be taken for one or more hunting seasons in a given territory in order to guarantee good management of natural balances by regulating population numbers and helping to finance game damage.
In this context, hunters are obliged to collect data on the state of game populations and to follow their evolutionary trends: field observations and count results. However, their data are also compared with those of other stakeholders in the natural environment: naturalist data, agricultural and forestry damage.
These plans specify the minimum and maximum number of hunts authorised in order to participate in the balanced management of animals and agricultural or forestry crops.
Failure to comply will result in penalties.
All game species can be subject to a hunting plan.
It can only be submitted by the natural or legal person (hunting society, ACCA, etc.) holding the hunting right on the territory concerned.
The hunting plan therefore determines the number of animals to be taken according to a strict procedure:
The holder of the hunting right, requests from the FDC a number of animals to be taken on his territory for the coming hunting season. He attaches the balance sheet for the past season.
The Departmental Federation of Hunters collects all requests and organises the consultations necessary for the preparation of hunting plans. It also prepares the reports on the previous season and on game damage, which it sends to the administration.
The Prefect, via the Direction Départementale du Territoire (DTT) on the basis of the summaries, proposes ranges of allocations to the Departmental Hunting and Wildlife Commission.
The Prefect decides in the light of the opinion of the Departmental Hunting and Wildlife Commission on the minimum and maximum amounts to be taken in the department or by species management unit as well as the methods of applying the hunting plan. He is not obliged to follow the advice of the commission.
The Departmental Hunting Federation decides on the individual hunting plans for each territory having collected the necessary opinions (step 2) and respecting the prefectural ranges (step 4). It notifies these hunting plans to each of the individual holders.
Each holder collects and pays for the bracelets from the Departmental Hunting Federation. The proceeds of this sale go into the budget of this federation to compensate for agricultural damage caused by big game.
Marking and traceability system
Each animal shot within the framework of the hunting plan must be marked with a bracelet at the place where it was killed before it is moved. It is forbidden to transport the game without this bracelet, which includes a code ensuring the traceability of the species. It identifies the game and its age class. A unique colour is fixed annually by ministerial order. The hunter must therefore always wear the bracelet(s) he has ordered in accordance with the hunting plan notified to him by individual allocation order. Each season, the bracelet changes colour.
The usage of weapons in a natural environment is not a privilege but a right aquired with the hunting licence exam.
This right to use hunting weapons means responsibilities and duties, the first of which is the duty of safety. Any activity, especially leisure and nature activities, involves risks and dangers, and hunting is no exception to the rule.
The actions of the federations, the ONCFS (now the OFB) and associations, combined with individual awareness, have halved the number of accidents in 10 years. In the 2020/21 season there were 80 accidents, 7 deaths (6 of which were hunters). Just to compare, this summer alone there were at least 3 deaths in equestrian centres in France, 2 of which were children.
There is now an obligatory training course to review safety procedures in hunting and in addition to this training, it is planned to introduce the following measures during collective shooting of large game
The generalisation of the wearing of fluorescent waistcoats,
The installation of temporary signs.
A departmental hunting safety commission will also be set up, composed of members of the Federation's board of directors.
This commission will make it possible to ask the Prefect to withhold or suspend the hunting licence of a person who has committed a serious incident without waiting for a court decision.
Hunting is not regulated
This is not true.
Because hunting takes place in nature and is a symbol of freedom, some people imagine it to be anarchic and devoid of rules. However, because it uses weapons, takes from a natural resource and is carried out on properties with shared uses, hunting is certainly, and for a long time, one of the most regulated leisure activities in France. Before practising it, one must undergo training and then pass a theory and practical exam, which requires knowledge of weapons, law, management and species recognition. 243 pages of the Environmental Code detail the legislative and regulatory articles that apply to hunting and to hunters! Not to mention the hundreds of ministerial and prefectoral decrees, departmental plans (SDGC) and internal regulations of associations that are added to it! Hunting time, hunting methods, huntable and protected species, quantitative and qualitative hunting, weapons and ammunition, safety, hunting licences, hunting territories and often heavy penal sanctions: nothing escapes the vigilance of the legislator, the Administration... or of the hunters themselves, who are concerned about the image they want to give to society and about the sustainability of game.
Hunters are dangerous
This is not true.
Some people think that having a firearm in their hands is dangerous in itself. In fact, for those who are not familiar with hunting, the emotional charge of the weapon is important and is a factor of anxiety. For the hunter, being armed is normal, as the gun is an everyday object, it is part of his daily life. But, for the vast majority of people, a gun carrier is first and foremost someone likely to kill! The image of the peasant, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, crossing the village in the early morning is long gone; it has been replaced by that of the delinquent in the neighbourhood, equipped with a weapon of war and who does not go hunting rabbits! Through assimilation and loss of rural references, hunting is too often perceived today as dangerous and suffers from a bad image, led by propaganda and media influence.
Hunters shoot at everything that moves
This is not true.
There is no more false statement than this one. In fact, hunting is very strictly regulated by hunting plans for large game (mouflons, stags, roe deer, chamois, sometimes wild boar…), which allocates a maximum and minimum amount of game species by species. This allocation is materialised by bracelets that must be affixed to the legs of the animals killed, with the day and month of the kill marked. The closing of this bracelet is definitive and it cannot be reused. Each bracelet has an identification number specific to each beneficiary of the hunting plan, thus avoiding any cheating.
This is also not true for small game.
Many species (pheasants, hares, partridges, grouse, etc.) are also subject to hunting plans, which allocate a certain number of game animals to be taken according to counts carried out in the spring and summer, after reproduction. This makes it possible to maintain a balance between the number of animals taken and the number of species present in the area and the carrying capacity of the area.
The overwhelming majority of hunters are reasonable and competent managers of the wildlife heritage of which they only take the interest without ever damaging the capital. Other species are subject to specific management measures, such as the woodcock. Thanks to these numerous management tools, the considerable efforts made to safeguard certain species, such as partridges, hares, capercaillie and other migratory and sedentary species, as well as to protect the environment, hunting is a major asset for managing biodiversity, not only for huntable species but for all species.
Without hunting, biodiversity loses its main ally
This is actually true.
The integration of man into the ecosystem is a guarantee of the preservation of biodiversity and a man, such as the hunter, is directly involved in the conservation of this balance. The consequences of the disappearance of hunting go beyond this aspect. Hunting is a cultural heritage that it is important to preserve, an economic activity that involves a large number of trades and activities, it contributes to the maintenance of life in our villages and strengthens the links between the towns and the countryside. Strongly involved in local life, hunters encourage the strengthening of social ties, the development of a collective life and a return to solidarity.
Is hunting destroying biodiversity?
French hunting involves 1,300,000 volunteers, 1,500 environmental technicians from the federations and the equivalent of 11,000 jobs created by volunteer hunters.
The preservation of biodiversity is simply a matter of land-use planning
This is not true.
Even if it has an obvious impact on wildlife, biodiversity cannot be limited to land-use planning. It goes far beyond that, and hunters are taking action in this direction in many other areas. Thus, by collecting data for scientific studies (bird ringing, counting, radio-tracking, etc.), hunters improve knowledge of wildlife while carrying out health surveillance. They also participate in the protection of endangered species, regulate predators and invasive species.
Hunters are depleting biodiversity and causing the disappearance of certain animal species
This is not true.
On the contrary, they do their utmost to repair the damage caused to nature. Through their daily interventions in the field, they act directly for the preservation and restoration of the natural heritage favourable to the reproduction of species. They have a great knowledge of wildlife and their naturalist expertise is invaluable.
The hunter does not deny death and looks it in the face
This is true.
Hunters accept death as part of life. In reality, what is at issue is the perception of death itself, which is part of the act of hunting, and is denied by a large part of our fellow citizens. Death is part of life and every living being is called upon to die. From time immemorial, civilisations have integrated death, giving it a religious meaning, ritualising it, honouring it, looking at it as the last episode of life, but not shunning it. However, in the last few decades, during which society has become totally urbanised and science has made progress in postponing the final deadline, in reducing suffering and overcoming disease, death has been experienced in a shameful way. It is hidden in hospitals, kept away from the eyes of children, denied in a way, as if it did not exist or should not be talked about.
Behind the steak we eat, no one wants to go to the slaughterhouse to see how it was "produced", and does not even ask whether it comes from a living animal. Slaughterhouses have been relegated far from the cities, and the traditional scenes of the pig being killed in the farmyard, in front of children learning about life, have long since disappeared. The hunter, on the other hand, accepts death and looks it in the face, giving it to the animal with responsibility and respect, thus becoming part of the cycle of nature. But, unlike a wild animal, he strives for instantaneous death and does everything in his power to ensure that suffering is reduced to a minimum. An animal that has spent its life living in total freedom before a quick death is infinitely preferable to an intensivly farmed animal, which spends its life in questionable conditions before the slow stressful journey to its final destination alongside many of its peers.
Hunting is a cruel and sadistic pastime
This is not true.
This statement is based on two inaccuracies: the meaning of the word cruelty and the reality of what hunting is.
According to the various definitions that can be found in French language dictionaries, cruelty is the inclination to cause suffering, or cruelty is the pleasure one experiences in causing suffering. Since words have a meaning and express a thought, it is absurd to claim that hunters are people who take pleasure in causing the suffering of a sentient being! Who can imagine that men and women all over France and the world get up in the morning with the aim of making an animal suffer? Who among us feels this need? Who, on the other hand, has not had a feeling of empathy towards the animal he was about to kill in the course of his hunting life?
The hunter's charter, the widespread use of big game research associations, the various guides to good practice or simply the ethics specific to each of us are the opposite of cruelty.
Hunters kill too much
This is not true.
Sometimes they don't even kill enough! For sedentary game, population monitoring is quite accurate. For example, the national population of large game (red deer, roe deer, wild boar, etc.) has increased by 100% to 400% in 20 years, depending on the species. It is therefore necessary to manage the overabundance and some regions even lack hunters to rebalance populations that cause significant agricultural damage (30 million euros per year) According to the LPO, since the 1960s, the number of ducks, geese and rallidae wintering in France (i.e. during the hunting season) has increased by a factor of about 2.5. With one exception, the number of game birds belonging to these species has all increased over the last 20 years (source: ONCFS).
There are, of course, a few migratory and sedentary species (small game of the plains or mountains in particular) that can be counted on the fingers of two hands and which have declined over the last 20 or 30 years. Generally speaking, the causes are not to be found in hunting, but in the degradation of the environment.
Hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities
Because it uses weapons, hunting is extremely well supervised and in 10 years there have been half as many accidents! This is despite the fact that hunting of large game, whose populations have exploded over the last few decades, and therefore the number of bullets fired during drives, is increasing. There were 259 accidents in 1999, 130 in 2013. Fatal accidents have fallen from 39 to 18 over the same period. Each year, the ONCFS, which is part of the Ministry of the Environment, publishes details of the accidents, their severity, their causes and the measures to be taken to reduce their number. Of course, an accident is always one too many and we must aim for zero risk, but we all know that no human activity is without risk.
Hunting and society can be reconciled
That is true.
It is by far the most profitable solution for everyone. Some countries have abolished hunting and are no better off for it. What the hunters used to do (in large part voluntarily): regulate, study, monitor, protect wildlife, maintain and preserve spaces and habitats, has been taken over by the States, which have had to pay to kill, using culling methods which, by favouring efficiency, give the animal no chance at all.
Hunting is a backward-looking activity
This is not true.
After a serious questioning of its legitimacy at the end of the 20th century, hunting has experienced a revival of interest over the last ten years: a change is taking place and the relationship between man and animal is changing. Ethical and sociological reasons, as well as changes in environmental values, explain this return to favour and legitimacy of hunting and the hunter.
A CREDOC survey (2013) indicates that the French have a better understanding of biodiversity and what is negative for it. Hunting, fishing and gathering only account for 3% of responses to this question. Our fellow citizens have clearly understood that the issues are elsewhere: infrastructures, intensive agriculture, pollution, etc., are the real threats to spaces and species.
I hope this information may have been thought provoking for you. If you are interested in what the Chasse are doing for your area take a look at the chasseurdefrance.com website and take a look at the actions sur le terrain page. Local to me in Manche they are re establishing the rabbit population near st lo after disease wiped them out, causing a decline in various predators. They are also planing trees and hedges across the county. Whats happening in your area?