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Hunting is the issue, not gun ownership (not much of a contentious issue so far). There's a strong culture of hunting in rural areas, a right that developed after the French revolution: until then, hunting was reserved to the nobility and any commoner caught poaching, even during the worst famines, was hanged. So hunting is also seen as a conquest of republican egalitarianism.

Unlike other European countries like Britain or Germany, France remained a largely agricultural country until WW II: in 1939, the majority of the population still lived in rural areas rather than in the cities. All this changed radically during the three decades of growth into the first oil shock: the rural areas are becoming increasingly empty and even small and medium towns are struggling to keep population (and jobs) to the benefit of the big conurbations like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, etc...

Farmers themselves have become an endangered species, living more and more out the CAP subsidies.

In parallel, since the 1970's, more and more legislation (some of it pushed by the European Parliament) was introduced to protect wild animals, including a lot of traditional game and traditional hunting methods, like "chasse à la palombe" (Common Wood Pigeon) in the South West. The growing restrictions on hunting, coupled with an increase of suburbia encroaching onto what was previously farming land has created a strong resentment against all these bobos, urban, hippies, pinko/commies/environmentalists "who want to take away our legitimate right to hunt".

This is why there has been a party called CNPT ("Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition") who presented candidates during most of the election cycles since 1989, including presidential elections.
This is a conservative movement of the reactionary kind, surfing on the fears and travails of the rural world. It is aligned to Sarkozy's UMP since 2009.

It would be wrong to paint all rural people with a reactionary brush anyway: several small farmers movements (ex: José Bové) are supporting progressive policies, including on environmental issues (afew who's living in a mostly rural place, could expand on this).

by Bernard on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the pros and cons of hunting in France is an issue which surely is best debated by the French, is that not so? So why is the EU trying to overstep its mandate in this way? Am I the only person left who remembers the principle of subsidarity?

It was the same thing when Sweden instituted licence hunting of wolves a few years back: a massive wall of whine from EU representatives from countries which have zero wolves! The wolf debate is infected enough here at home without Brussels weighing in on what's not their business. Now that I think of it, it was the eurocrats who banned our squirrel hunting as well. For no good reason I might add, as the squirrel is very abundant in Sweden. But I suppose they were thought to be too cute and cuddly to be hunted.

Seems the Wood pigeon is "Least Concern" species as well. It's widely hunted in Sweden too. And the taste is quite exquisite. Hunting of the Stock dove is however banned, as the population has shrunk during the last half a century due to changes in land use patterns. The hunting of the Eurasian collared dove is banned as well.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 09:49:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
overstep its mandate

How so?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:01:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The principle of subsidiarity is part of the foundations of the EU, and says that all decisions should be made on the lowest possible level. It's very hard to argue that local hunting regulations are a federal level issue...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Well, the pros and cons of hunting in France is an issue which surely is best debated by the French, is that not so? So why is the EU trying to overstep its mandate in this way? Am I the only person left who remembers the principle of subsidarity?

Sure, subsidiarity is a great thing, but it's not only about the EC:

  • Migrating birds have a bad habit of ignoring human-made borders, so some cases, it might not make sense to protect one bird species in one country if it is free for all in the next.
  • And the restrictions (at least those that generate controversy in France) are seldom outright banning but rather smaller date ranges for the open season.
  • The palombe (wood pigeon) may be thriving in Sweden but the population was dwindling in France, and the traditional hunt was actually very efficient in thinning out the numbers.
  • Not all hunting regulations are actually EC imposed, many are decided at national level, but our governments have taken the bad habit of using the "EU made me do it" camouflage; and this extends way beyond hunting...
  • And last, this is not really about hunting, after all: the CPNT name is "Chasse, Pêche, Nature et Traditions" ("Hunting, Fishing, Nature & Traditions"). As I explained above, it is firstly a reactionary expression of resentment against the urban population (whose values and life styles are different): life was better "before", when men were real men, women were real women, France was white (save for the Colonies), church was Catholic and furry little creatures in the woods were, err, furry little creatures in the woods.
by Bernard on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 12:43:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the point about migratory birds is very good, actually. It's a parallell to having the EU regulate sulfur emissions as they fall down as acid rain in other countries, a clear example of where the principle of subsidiarity points to the federal level. Your other points are duly noted as well.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 03:59:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another parallel is nuclear power...
by Katrin on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Private ownership of firearms (and the security of government stockpiles) is actually another, since people who steal firearms (or intend to commit crimes with them) will typically have little compunction about carrying them across EU borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 03:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically zero weapons used in crimes are stolen from legal owners. They are all more or less illegal weapons from the Balkan wars. At least that's the way things are in Sweden, and I bet it's like that in the rest of the EU as well.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 05:00:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not something involving theft, but involving lax gun laws, is the fact that Austria served as the main funnel for weapons from both the Balkan Wars and Warshaw Pact armories into the EU.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 05:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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