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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.