Shoot to kill.. Or shoot to eat?
It’s Sunday today, and just outside the office window I can hear a couple of hunters calling for their lost dogs. Like every Sunday during hunting season, the countryside is alive with the sounds of dogs barking, men shouting and bugles echoing in the valleys. As always I hear very few gunshots in comparison to the number of deer I see every day…. I am not sure my local hunters are very good.
The reason I have decided to write about hunting today is because of what I have been reading on French social media this hunting season. I have been seeing a very large, open criticism of hunting. Now, I am not surprised because I am particularly pro-hunting, but because there is open criticism. When I was growing up in France, hunting was sacred to the French and no one would dare criticize it openly. What a difference just one generation can make! There are even serious discussion on making the season shorter and banning hunting on its traditional day of Sunday (to avoid shooting accidents with non-hunters).
Hunters have always been at the receiving end of jokes and stereotyping, but the notion that what they were doing might be wrong was never discussed. To be fair the hunting fraternity can be pretty amusing. The way they park all the 4x4 in town car parks and gather around an old map spread out across the bonnet like they were planning an invasion to the way they all dress in full camouflage from head to toe, then wear high-viz jackets on top so they can be safely seen! I am also certain they spend their entire day looking for their dog rather than actually hunt anything! If you speak French there is an amazing sketch from my favorite comedy group at the link below:
Hunting in France is a very different affair to the UK. First of all, it is done on foot, no horses to be seen. The catch is also very different. The French will only shoot to eat. They use hunting season to fill up their freezer with deer, wild boar and a selection of wild birds.
Hunting in France also has very different roots. Due to the odd revolution here and there, there are no large land owners. The countryside belongs to the peasants themselves, or to no-one at all. It is a weird notion for people from the UK that in France, you can have forests and land that simply do not belong to anyone. So, the gentry remained in the cities, eating cake- probably, well out of the way of those pesky revolutionary peasants with great shooting skills. I also know the laissez faire attitude to land borders in the French countryside can surprise the British. When I first started taking Katie to France she was always nervous about how I would just walk under fences into other people’s fields, drive up their dirt tracks and take a tour of their barns. But, no farmer with a shotgun here. Just friendly hellos. So yes, you can pretty much hunt where you like.
To this day, hunting remains a way for French farmers to get together after a week of farming, to be in the countryside and have a get together with their friends. Hunting day always sandwiches a long dinner out in the hunting cabin where hunters can have a warm lunch and a warming drink, or two…. Camaraderie is a major force in French hunting. And, again, because of those revolutions they kept having, They did away with the church so they could spend Sunday hunting with their friends.
I can safely say that if you had to put together all the stereotypical attributes of a French hunter you would end up with an exact replica of my dad. From the dress sense to the crazy mustache. What a shot though! I remember showing him duck hunt on the super Nintendo, The first time he had ever seen a computer game, he picked up the light gun and didn’t miss a single duck. Anyways, Like other hunters, he would also go out and pick mushrooms in the Autumn and berries for jam in the Summer. He was able to make the most from the countryside. Yes, hunting can be cruel I guess, but is it not the most natural way to eat? It would be great to hear all your views on the matter.