France set to favour hunting app over Sunday ban in bid to protect public

The French government is set release new plans, including a smartphone app, to make hunting safer in France on Monday, but the proposals will likely leave out a ban on hunting on Sundays.

France set to favour hunting app over Sunday ban in bid to protect public
(Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Ahead of the release of new measures to make hunting safer in France, Le Figaro reported on Friday that the French government was considering developing a smartphone app to help keep walkers safe in areas where hunters are active. 

Secretary of State for Biodiversity Bérangère Couillard will outline the scheme on Monday, January 9th.

Several MPs, namely those with Green Party, had hoped that these plans would include a blanket ban on Sunday hunting. However, due to opposition from French President Emmanuel Macron, the ban is unlikely, according to Le Figaro.

Instead, the government is considering about expanding the existing Suricate app so that it can alert walkers to the presence of an active hunt nearby.

The idea is that, once alerted by the app, walkers would be able to choose a different route that kept them away from the hunt area.

A possible ban on Sunday afternoon hunting was met with strong opposition from hunting groups, notably the Fédération nationale des chasseurs, which has strong political connections. Without the support of the president, it was always a long shot.

“There has never been any question of considering a ban on hunting on weekends and holidays because hunting remains a popular activity,” Emmanuel Macron wrote in an open letter to hunters, four days before the first round of the presidential elections in 2022.

READ ALSO La chasse: How France plans to make hunting safer

Hunting – la chasse in French – generally refers to shooting and has long been a source of discord because of the safety risks to the general public during the season.

Even though ‘hunting accidents’ overall are down, the 2020 death of a Franco-British man, Morgan Keane, caused outrage when the 25-year old was shot while cutting wood near his house in the village of Calvignac in southwest France.

The Fédération has been lobbying in favour of the app so that its members could continue hunting on Sundays, but according to Le Figaro there is no suggestion that hunt groups would be obliged to report their hunt activities on the app.

READ ALSO French hunter ‘sorry’ after killing Franco-British man he mistook for boar

Suricate, which is already available on Android and iOS, is used by lovers of outdoor activities such as riding or hiking to report sources of pollution, incorrect or defective signage or equipment intended for their use.

A total 700 local authorities, sports federations, government services and regional managers are charged with correcting any issues identified by users, the Ministry of Sport has said.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about France’s hunting season

It may be possible to add a hunting function so that non-hunters with access to a smartphone with the app installed would be able to avoid the area when necessary.

Last December, about 15 environmental associations wrote to the head of state urging him to support a ban on hunting on Sundays.

According to a recent poll by Ifop, 80 percent of those questioned support the idea. “What contempt for these citizens,” environmentalist Allain Bougrain-Dubourg – a signatory to the letter – told Le Parisien after reports suggested that the idea had been rejected. “Emmanuel Macron is under the influence of the hunting lobby. The government is shooting itself in the foot.”

The government is also reportedly considering a ban on alcohol after senior politicians heeded the call of a 120,000-signature petition last September. 

READ ALSO ‘It’s like the Wild West’: Tales of life in rural France during the hunting season

Currently, there is no limit on drinking before and during hunting, but alcohol is considered an aggravating factor in the event of prosecution after an accident.

But, as with the proposed ban on Sunday hunting, hunt groups have reacted angrily to the suggestion, claiming that 91 percent of alcohol screening tests following a hunting incident come back negative.

READ ALSO ‘We are treated like assassins’: Could hunters in France face alcohol ban?

In the 2021-22 hunting season, the Office français de biodiversité recorded a total of 90 hunting accidents in which people were injured as a result of a hunting weapon being discharged, including eight fatalities.

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French tabacs will be able to sell hunting ammunition

France's interior ministry has announced that tabac shops - after obtaining a special certification - will be able to sell ammunition to hunters.

French tabacs will be able to sell hunting ammunition

The tabac is a crucial part of life in France – as well as buying cigarettes you can also pay bills, buy stamps and train tickets, pay taxes and buy a lottery ticket or place a bet. 

In many small towns they are ‘bar-tabac‘ – a tabac with a little extra space for seating where you can buy a coffee or a beer and sit and chat.

And soon you may also be able to purchase ammunition

READ MORE: Why the tabac is essential to life in France – even if you don’t smoke

France’s interior ministry announced over the weekend that from January 2024, tabacs will be able to sell hunting ammunition.

A decline in the number of gun shops means that many hunters are forced to travel long distances to obtain supplies.

In response, the French government decided to relax the rules for obtaining a certificate for selling ammunition, opening it up to tabac owners to apply.

With over 23,000 tabacs across the country – almost half (41 percent) of which are in small towns with less than 3,500 inhabitants – the change is intended to cut travel time for registered hunters.

Which tabacs will be able to sell ammunition?

Only those tobacconists who have obtained a special certification – which is awarded after a two-day training course – will be able to sell ammunition. 

Only two types of ammunition will be sold in tabacs: Category C (mainly those used for hunting) and Category D (the least dangerous weapons type which includes items like air rifles and paintball guns). 

READ MORE: What are the rules on carrying a knife in France?

Once they obtain a licence after taking the course, participating tabacs must also receive authorisation from the préfet after consultation with the local mayor.

Who can buy ammunition at a tabac?

For the purchase of category C ammunition, the adult customer must show ID, proof of either a hunting or shooting licence, as well as a declaration of their firearm from the SIA.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How gun control laws work in France

Controversy surrounding the plans

Even though ammunition will be kept in a locked cabinet, some groups have expressed concern about the possibility of break-ins or decreased security.

Rubens Abbosh, the owner of a gun shop ‘Aux Armes de Diane’ in the Seine-et-Marne département, told Le Parisien that the plan is “total madness”.

“A gun shop has to have surveillance cameras, a safe, electric metal shutters and a remote surveillance system that responds more quickly than those of other businesses,” Abbosh told Le Parisien. 

Others have expressed concerns about the possibility of selling ammunition to underage customers.

The French National Anti-Smoking Committee also questioned the government’s plan, noting that “two out of three tobacconists continue to sell tobacco to minors illegally”.