"Hunting no longer has the support of society", according to Michel Gauthier-Clerc

“Hunting no longer has the support of society”, according to Michel Gauthier-Clerc

In his book “Have hunters killed hunting?”, ecology doctor Michel Gauthier-Clerc looks back on more than 60 years of hunting history in France. And wants to explain the growing disconnect between society and the world of hunting.

In Loiret and Indre-et-Loire, the hunting season opens this Sunday, September 18. Against a backdrop of excitement for the French hunting world: a report from the Senate hopes to establish a new security framework around the practice of hunting. Report that does not go far enough for the anti-hunting, and goes too far for the all-powerful National Federation of Hunters (FNC).

Because the very subject of hunting has crystallized many political oppositions in the country for a few years, with the rise of movements taking animal welfare into account to oppose purely and simply the killing of wildlife. On the other side, the very media statements of the boss of the FNC, Willy Schraen, regularly provoke controversy. Like his use of the term “anti-hunting racism“, prophesying that the hunters will end”by wearing the orange star“.

Veterinarian and graduate of a doctorate in ecology at the University of Tours, Michel Gauthier-Clerc published his essay on September 9 Did the Hunters kill the hunt?, in which he returns in particular to this recent posture of the FNC. For twenty years, he has participated in scientific committees on hunting, in particular with the French office for biodiversity (OFB) and the national council for hunting and wildlife. Maintenance.

France 3: Why do you wonder if the hunters killed the hunt, as the title of your book says?

Michel Gauthier-Clerc: Already because we are in a situation where the hunting representatives, therefore the FNC, and the hunters are two very different things. And there is a powerful disconnect between society and hunting, challenged by what it is and its image.

Today, hunting is notabilised. As in Sologne, where the big landowners put up barriers. The president of the FNC, Willy Schraen, is live with the Elysée. At the departmental level, it is the same with the prefects.

France 3: We regularly hear Willy Schraen’s controversial statements in the media. What do they respond to?

Michel Gauthier-Clerc: Hunters would be victims of aggression, hunting-bashing, they speak of eco-terrorism. It is a communication strategy to evolve on nothing. The FNC tries to take up the theme of rurality, previously carried by Hunting, fishing, nature and traditions. Except it doesn’t take. Thierry Coste (important hunting lobbyist, editor’s note) said himself: “The idea that defending hunting amounts to defending rurality as a whole is a fallacious assimilation but one that we have managed to install.“And hunting doesn’t even have the support of rural people as much as it used to. Because, by gaining notability, hunting has become disconnected from the population.

Today, hunting representatives do not want any compromise with nature protection NGOs. And NGOs are not inherently anti-hunting, but want reform. At the same time, the animal welfare movement has developed. The question is no longer to stop hunting such an endangered species. For One Voice or L214, one should not kill an animal for leisure. It’s a legitimate question : can we kill an animal for leisure?

France 3: How to explain that the FNC is sticking to these positions?

Michel Gauthier-Clerc: Today’s generations of hunters have always lived in a world where they have the right to go onto properties, without compromise with the inhabitants, whereas this was not the case before the 1960s. It is true, they have the law with them. And there are the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions years when electoral successes were due more to the defense of rurality than hunting. But the FNC tries to recover that, it gives an electoral overweight to the world of hunting.

However, the vote of the hunters in the presidential elections is distributed globally like the vote of the French population. In the 2000s, it was still cross-partisan to defend hunting. But the tide is turning. They are very keen on the support of Emmanuel Macron and the Senate. Outside the majority and the Senate, there is either a strong demand for reform as in La France insoumise and among the ecologists, or parties that do not know too much. So if they lose the Senate and the President, it can turn very quickly, because they no longer have the support of society.

France 3: So they are behind society? Could hunting disappear in France?

Michel Gauthier-Clerc: The number of hunters has been decreasing since 1975. Before, hunting was transmitted in the family. In the 70s, you had the father, the uncle and the son who were hunters. But the transmission to the next generation broke down, with the collapse of popular hunting. Especially with the disappearance of small game due to agriculture and disease. It needed a discussion with the environmental defense movements at the time.

The image of the grandfather with his rifle and his dog, who is going to shoot the partridge, à la Pagnol… it’s a postcard. Hunting has changed a lot. Since the 1970s, we have been on a productivist approach, with breeders who let go of a lot of animals. Popular hunting has disappeared with this small-scale agriculture (on average, the hunter is a fairly old and well-to-do man, editor’s note). Today, hunting is doing well with wild boar. But it’s a special hunt, you don’t walk quietly with your dog.