By Manuel Ausloos
SAINT-GEORGES-SUR-LOIRE, France – Every time she hears guns being fired in the fields around her house in the French countryside, Elodie Le Frixon flinches.
She is remembering the time four years ago when a stray hunter’s bullet came through her kitchen window, just missing her partner.
Such incidents, including some in which people have been wounded or killed, have led to calls for restrictions on hunting, a sport that for many in France’s rural heartlands represents as a way of life.
“Whenever I hear there’s a hunting drive around the house, when I hear a gunshot nearby, I still have the reflex of lowering my head, and not standing in front of the windows,” said Le Frixon, a guide dog trainer.
Morgan Keane, a 25-year-old who was chopping wood in his garden when a hunt rode past, was less fortunate than Le Frixon’s partner. Keane died after being hit by a bullet fired by someone hunting wild boar.
That tragedy prompted his friends to organise a petition calling for restrictions on hunting that has gathered more than 120,000 signatures on the website of the French Senate.
“Morgan could be you… It could be your parents, it could be anyone,” said Lea Jaillard, a friend and the petition’s co-organiser.
The idea behind the petition is supported by Yannick Jadot, the Green candidate in next year’s presidential election. He has proposed banning hunting at weekends to reduce the risk of joggers, ramblers and mountain bikers getting accidentally shot.
The initiative has faced a backlash.
Willy Schraen, head of the National Hunters’ Federation, thinks banning the activity at weekends would be stupid.
Retired civil servant Renan Foucre, shooting for wild boar and deer last month with a group of hunters in a forest south-east of Paris, tends to agree.
Foucre, 75, said it was fine to have some designated days without hunting, but not the weekends – for many the only time they can hunt.
“That would be an attack on freedom,” he said.