How France is Falling Out of Love With Hunting
But now it’s the opponents of hunting who are on the rise.
In front of the Senate, the upper house of the French parliament, where a few dozen protesters are chanting “No hunting, no hunting!” I meet François Darlot, president of France Without Hunting, a pressure group that hopes that France will follow the lead of the canton of Geneva, in Switzerland, which banned hunting back in 1974.
“Things have changed a lot since my father’s day,” Darlot says.
“He was a farmer and a hunter at a time – about 50 years ago – when France had two-and-half million hunters.
“The main reason for the decline is that our values have changed. We have so much more sensibility now when it comes to the animal world.”
On my next outing with the Hanches hunters, a small group this time, we walk over a field of wet rapeseed looking for small game.
One of the younger hunters, Christophe Potier, is the first Frenchman I’ve seen in a good long while who wears a beret.
His dog puts up a partridge. He aims, fires and brings it down. It struggles on the ground for a moment before his dog finishes it off and brings it to its master. A beautiful bird. Still warm.
One of the things Christophe’s hunting friend Mathieu had told me in that wood the previous day was that, a generation or two ago, French country dwellers were able to kill a chicken without thinking twice about it. Not any more – many now are too squeamish.
But Christophe is more old-school. And he’s got plans for his partridge.
“I’m going to pluck it and cook it,” he says. “Roast it probably. With mushrooms.”
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