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Alcohol limits, training days and an app: How France plans to make hunting safer

The French government has laid out a 14-point plan to make hunting safer after growing controversy over the number of hunting accidents, including fatalities. Here's what the plan involves.

Alcohol limits, training days and an app: How France plans to make hunting safer
A sign indicating "hunting in progress" on the top of the Hautacam hiking trail, southwestern France on January 7, 2023. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

With the stated goal of “zero hunting accidents,” France’s junior environment minister, Bérangère Couillard, on Monday unveiled the 14 measures the country plans to take in order to make hunting safer.

Over one million people go hunting every year, making it the sport with the third highest number of registered participants in France.

But it is becoming increasing controversial due to the number of accidents around la chasse (which usually means shooting) – including high profile cases in which passing hikers, dog-walkers, cyclists and even drivers have been shot by mistake by hunters.

READ ALSO ‘Like the wild west’ – life in rural France during the hunting season

During a press conference on Monday morning in Loiret, Couillard outlined the tenants of the 2023 Hunting Safety Plan. Here’s what it says;

No ban on Sunday hunting

Even though a ban on hunting on Sundays, public holidays and during school holidays had been called for by several associations and MPs, the National Federation of Hunters (FNC), was fiercely opposed to it. Members of the French government, including President Emmanuel Macron, had also spoken out in opposition to this measure.

Nevertheless, almost 80 percent of the French public favour a hunting ban on Sundays, polling firm IFOP found in December.

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

In explanation for why the ban was not included, Couillard said that “nothing says that Sunday is the most accident-prone day.” She elaborated, adding that “Thursday is the most accident-prone day” in fact.

The junior environment minister added that during the period of 2000 and 2003, when hunting was banned on Wednesdays, there “were more accidents during this period.”

“We want to see better safety, seven days a week,” Couillon added.

Safety rules and training

The government will introduce mandatory training for all hunt ‘organisers.’ These training sessions will not be simply theoretical, but they will also have ‘hands-on’ portions.

“By the end of 2025, all hunt organisers (around 200,000 people) will have received training from the federations. The courses will be created alongside the French Biodiversity Office.

“They will remind hunters, in particular, of the safety rules and the challenges of communicating with local residents,” Couillard said.

All hunters, not simply the organisers, will have to undertake a training course every 10 years. 

The French government also offered plans to harmonise hunting safety rules throughout the country, starting with the 2023-2024 season. While these have not been decided upon yet, they may include standardising the wearing of fluorescent jackets or instituting a 30′ hunting angle (meaning not firing the weapon on the peripherals), for example.

The hunting plan will also allow for the better monitoring of weapon possession in France, as well as the national registry of persons banned from acquiring and holding weapons.

Alcohol restrictions

The government will also institute a fine – put in place in early 2023 – to punish any person caught hunting under the influence of alcohol. According to Franceinfo, it will be forbidden to hunt with an alcohol content of 0.5 grams per litre of blood. This equates to approximately two glasses of wine, depending on the individual. 

Also, the FNC (National Hunters’ Federation) has backed a new criminal offence of hunting under the influence, similar to that in force for drivers.

The app

The junior environment minister discussed plans to roll out a new tool: an app where hunters will have to report active hunts.

The aim is to “promote and centralise information on hunting locations and times” in a way that is “available on a digital platform” and open for all to access, explained Couillard.

The app is expected to be available in autumn – when the next hunting season opens – and it should allow all people in France to identify whether any hunts are going on near their homes. 

The Secretary of State’s aim is to achieve peaceful cohabitation with the introduction of an application identifying the areas hunted: “Declarations of hunts will be compulsory from September 2023.”

One of the main complaints of residents in rural France is that it is hard to find out where hunts are taking place, and therefore which areas to avoid when hiking, cycling or dog-walking. 

Hunting signs

By September 2025 (at the latest) France will standardise the usage of hunting signs throughout the country. Additionally, starting in September, communal hunting associations (ACA) will have to display ‘hunting days’ at the town hall, to better inform residents of the area. 

Hunters must already by law display signs when la chasse is underway, but application of this is patchy around the country.

Tougher penalties for hunting accidents

The hunting safety plan will also introduce stiffer penalties for accidents where hunters are found to be at fault.

“Depending on the seriousness of the offence, the government hopes to strengthen penalties like the withdrawing hunting licences or placing bans on renewing the licence,” Couillard said.

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

Statistics show hunting accidents have been on the decline in France over the past 20 years, but are still common.

In 2021-2022 the French Office of Biodiversity counted 90 hunting accidents (physical injuries linked to the use of a hunting weapon), compared to 80 in the previous season. Of these accidents, eight were fatal – six of the people who died were hunters and the other two were passers-by unconnected to the hunt.

Over the weekend, an 84-year-old hunter in Corsica accidentally shot himself dead as he was stowing his gun in his car.

Member comments

  1. So basically a non event! Putting hunting days on an app doesn’t mean 90% of the population will see it, and it puts the onus on non hunters to find out what is happening! As for an alcohol limit? More importantly the arrogance of the hunters has to be addressed, they seem to think they have precedent. However, I am not sure how that could be achieved other than a total ban.

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