SAINT-PIERRE-D’OLERON, France (Reuters) – A loud 4-year-old rooster called Maurice on an island off the French Atlantic shore has pitted a couple of city slickers who bought a second home next door against his owners, and stirred a nationwide debate.
Two years ago, Jean-Louis Biron started to complain about Maurice’s early-morning crowing to its owners, Jacky Fesseau and his wife Corrine, who refused to get rid of their beloved fowl.
“The cock’s screeching starts at 4.30 a.m. and keeps up all morning and well into the afternoon,” Biron said in an official letter he sent to his neighbours on the island of Oleron in 2017.
The row then escalated and the parties, against the advice of their lawyers and a mediator, went to court.
“I am telling myself, I am not going to let myself be bullied,” Corrine Fesseau said about the lawsuit. “The countryside should stay as it is and they should not say: ‘We should silence the countryside noises.’”
A hearing on the case took place in July a local court in Rochefort and a decision is expected on September 5.
It is not clear what the plaintiffs want to achieve with the lawsuit. Biron’s lawyer was quoted by Le Monde newspaper as saying he wants to open mediation “to clear up the lawsuit”. His lawyers could not be immediately reached.
Maurice’s case underscores a decades-long conflict in France between city dwellers buying summer homes in the countryside without being ready to cope with rural characteristics such as animal noise, odours or insects.
Maurice has raised a broad move of sympathy and support from all over France and beyond.
“The idea was to support Corrine’s association, but also to push out a cry of anger against the fact that a rooster could be involved in a lawsuit,” said Benoit Guitton, a local businessman who sells T-shirts supporting Maurice.
Similar court cases against cows and church bells have been filed in France but none with the same emotive impact as Maurice the rooster, who has elicited letters of support from as far away as in the United States.
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Inti Landauro; Editing by Clelia Oziel)