The 30 Million Friends Foundation, partner of the University Diploma in Animal Law at the University of Limoges (87), has awarded the Jules-Michelet Prize to a reform proposal relating to the ban on the use of live decoys in the practice of waterfowl hunting. A look back at its challenges with the author of the award-winning text, Sarah Charlat.
30millionsdamis.fr: What triggered your interest in the protection of wild animals, especially live callers?
Sarah Charlat : Since as far as I can remember, I have always had a particular sensitivity for the treatment that men reserved for animals. There have always been cats in our house that my parents picked up from the street to give them a second chance. As a volunteer with the Fondation Droit Animal (LFDA), I was able to discover the inequalities in treatment between so-called pet animals and wild animals and how the latter were ignored by French law. Wild animals which, by definition, are not the property of anyone (res nullius in law) escape to a fairly large extent from the protective rules put in place by the legislator. Going deeper into the subject, I was particularly indignant at the use made of live decoys, particularly in the practice of waterfowl hunting. I realized that it was necessary to change the legislation so that this use disappears definitively. In a few words, it is a question of using animals bred in captivity – different species of ducks – in order to bring, by their songs and their numbers, the wild birds within shooting range of the hunters. The decoys are kept for some at a distance from the hunting area in individual cages placed high up, and for others directly on the body of water using fasteners and weights.
As the use of live hunting decoys is in principle prohibited, on what grounds is the derogation from this prohibition based?
The decree of November 4, 2003 provides for a derogation from this principle prohibition for the hunting of passing birds and waterfowl as well as for the destruction of “harmful” animals. To understand the basis of this derogation, with regard to the practice of waterfowl hunting, it is necessary to refer to article L424-4 of the Environmental Code which specifies in particular that ” to allow, under strictly controlled conditions and in a selective manner, the hunting of certain passing birds in small quantities, the minister in charge of hunting authorizes, under the conditions he determines, the use of dedicated hunting methods and means by traditional usages, derogating from those authorized by the first paragraph “. Here, therefore, it is tradition that justifies the authorization of the use of live decoys in the practice of waterfowl hunting. In the field of hunting, the argument of tradition is often, even systematically used, to justify the maintenance of certain cruel but ancestral practices (eg hunting with hounds).
A few words on the conditions of detention of living appellants?
In my reform proposal, I specifically highlight the absence of specific legislative provisions relating to the conditions of detention of these animals and their use in the practice of waterfowl hunting (unregulated tethering methods, no minimum area of the enclosure, etc.). This lack of regulatory framework leads to many abuses, at the expense of their physiological and emotional needs. Some have no access to a pond; others live in flooded enclosures without access to dry land; still others have for their only food poor bits of bread and stagnant water. Practiced at night, this hunt prevents decoys, constrained and hindered, from expressing their natural feeding behavior. In addition, they forcibly hear the rifle shots responsible for the fall and death of their fellow savages. As the naturalist Pierre Rigaux summarizes, “ they are put in completely aberrant situations compared to their minimal well-being “.
This chase prevents callers from expressing their natural behavior.
What justification do hunters give for not using artificial decoys?
The practice of this hunt is done mainly at night or in the past (at dusk and dawn) because this is the time when migratory birds are most active. As a result, it is difficult for hunters to distinguish migrating birds and even more so to identify huntable species among them without the help of the animals used as live decoys. Indeed, the caller’s eye, specially genetically selected for this purpose, can see birds at night and in the dark. My reform proposal does not concern the prohibition as such of the practice of waterfowl hunting: it is a question of prohibiting the use of “live decoys” which can be replaced by artificial decoys or chard (imitations of plastic or wooden birds) and/or by decoys (instruments used by humans to attract an animal by the noise they produce). These alternative methods are, by definition, more favorable to respecting animal welfare. Moreover, they are already used by hunters in addition to the use of live decoys.
Could your reform proposal be debated in the ranks of parliamentarians?
I would sincerely like this work and this proposal to find an echo among parliamentarians and make it possible to advance legislation in favor of better protection of animals used as “live decoys” in the practice of this hunt, or even to lead to its outright ban. My objective is also to open a debate on the treatment reserved for these animals, which, in my opinion, remain relatively absent from the concerns of parliamentarians and the general public in general. I am fully aware that this cannot be implemented immediately, which is why my reform proposal is formulated in two stages. The first is the immediate cessation of any reproduction of decoys within pleasure and professional farms. The second – the ban on the use of “live decoys” in the practice of waterfowl hunting – would apply with a deferred effect of five years, in order to allow a gradual adaptation of breeding establishments intended for the sale of decoys to practitioners of this hunt.
Can the Michelet prize which has just been awarded to you be a source of change in legislation?
I am firmly convinced that it constitutes a real source of change in legislation. Moreover, this is already illustrated. Award-winning reform proposals were subsequently adopted and are now part of positive law (eg banning pony rides). I think it is essential that all the work of reflection carried out by the students of the DU of animal law of Limoges within the framework of the Michelet Prize, and more broadly within the framework of this DU, does not remain only a simple work intellectual and actively allow the evolution of the legislation relating to the protection of animals. I would also like to warmly thank Mr. Marguénaud, President of the Michelet Prize jury, all the members of the jury and the 30 Million Friends Foundation for having done me the honor of awarding me this prize.