Dying to hunt in France

Just before Christmas, 2021, Joel Vilard was driving his cousin home on a dual carriageway just south of Rennes in Brittany. Suddenly, a bullet flew through the window and hit the pensioner in the neck. He later died in hospital of injuries accidentally inflicted by a hunter firing a rifle from a few hundred metres away. A year earlier Morgan Keane, was shot dead in his garden, while out chopping wood. The hunter says that he mistook the 25 year old man for a wild boar.

Mila Sanchez was so shocked by her friend Morgan’s death that she collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to change the hunting laws. She gave evidence to the French Senate and put the topic on the political agenda. The Green Party is now calling for a ban on hunting on Sundays and Wednesdays. But the Federation National des Chasseurs, which licenses the 1.3 million active hunters across France, is fighting back. It argues hunting is a vital part of rural life and brings the community together. Its members were delighted when President Macron recently halved the cost of annual hunting permits.

Yet public opinion, concerned about safety and animal rights, is hardening against hunting and the battle for la France Profonde is on. On the eve of presidential elections, Lucy Ash looks at a country riven with divisions and asks if new laws are needed to ensure ramblers, families, residents and hunters can share the countryside in harmony.

Presenter, Lucy Ash. Producer, Phoebe Keane. Editor, Bridget Harney