December 2, 2007
THE French are grumbling about les rosbifs again and this time it is not for
pushing up property prices. The latest scourge from across the Channel is
interfering with their enjoyment of a good day's sport and is known as 'le hunt
'It is a recent phenomenon that came from Britain,' said one hunt enthusiast,
describing a wave of commando-style actions against stag hunts by saboteurs clad
One hunt west of Paris said it was targeted in October by a group of three dozen
militants from a French organisation called Animal Rights. They prevented
huntsmen letting hounds out of a lorry. Police have been called to protect
various other hunts from interference by the men and women in black.
'The fate reserved for some animals in this country is disgusting,' said Marie H'l'ne Huard, one of the activists, in an internet video that recommends blowing
horns to confuse hunters. 'I don't know how we can be so cruel.'
A saboteur who identifies himself as David said: 'We want the abolition of stag
hunting.' He went on: 'Hunt sabotage was born in Britain where numerous [animal]
lives have been saved thanks to this technique.'
Since the British ban on foxhunting, he added, 'English hunters come to kill
animals in France. We have to do something.'
Few countries are more attached to their hunting than France, a land steeped in
rural traditions where riding to hounds may have begun, say the French, more
than 1,000 years ago. The French even claim to be the origin of the term 'tally
ho', a corruption, they claim, of ta'aut, the French hunting cry.
Thousands of people take part each year, dressing in swallowtail coats of blue,
green, red or black to chase foxes, stags, deer or wild boar. Dogs and horses
are blessed by priests. Hunters even have their own political party. They do not
take kindly to saboteurs.
The latter, however, are becoming increasingly well organised since the first
antihunt operations two years ago. 'Internet and text messaging has helped,'
said a saboteur wearing an armband emblazoned with the slogan 'Animal
liberation, human liberation'.
Their activities have forced hunters onto the defensive. 'We've become a bit
more discreet,' Michel, a stag-hunting enthusiast, told Le Journal du Dimanche.
'We no longer announce our meetings publicly.'
Could the saboteurs ever put an end to the practice of hunting in France?
'Never,' said another enthusiast. 'It is part of our heritage.'