A couple of weeks ago a neighbour decided to call the local hunting association to organise a cull of wild boar in our area. She’s one of those neighbours; taking it upon herself to represent the lane, with or without the approval of the rest of us. This can be good of course, people like this are needed I guess, but in this case no one was consulted, just presented with the fact that there would be a hunt in the lane one Thursday afternoon at 5 pm. A HUNT, involving guns and dogs and bullets flying and slaughter! Pretty much in our gardens – at exactly the time children would be walking home from school! We do not live deep in the forest. We live on a quiet, village, dead-end lane of 10 houses.
Now I have very mixed feelings about the whole hunting issue. I’m not against it per se but I don’t like the idea of killing a wild animal, and certainly not just for sport. I do understand culls though and realise they can be necessary. If the meat is then eaten at least there is some purpose. But all this on my front doorstep is another issue altogether. Too bloody close for comfort. I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if a boar came crashing out of the forest into the garden with a bullet chasing it. If the bullet missed the beast it would continue on its trajectory into what? Our wall? A window? The car? A child? The potential for disaster seemed high, hunting in an urban setting.
So I thought I’d better do some research, and I discovered some astonishing facts. France is the number 1 country in Europe for hunting (that didn’t surprise me). It is the second most popular “sport” in France after football, with 1,343,000 registered members of clubs (to football’s 2,225,595 and tennis’es 1,125,201. Figures from 2009). That did surprise me. Now for the really hard stuff: there are around 200 hunting accidents a year. The majority of these accidents are serious resulting in amputation or paralysis and 20-30 people are killed every year! Last year was a particularly mortal year with 57 people killed in hunting accidents. I find this phenomenal. These deaths barely make the news.
This did nothing to assuage my misgivings about the proposed hunt in the backyard, so to speak. But as it was going to go ahead all I could do was to make sure my children were safe. They were delighted to be driven home that day and not have to walk! I wanted to be safely inside before the shooting began. And I have to say they were pretty excited at the whole prospect of the hunt. Boys, guns…I don’t get it, but they do! So the Thursday loomed around and 5 o’clock came and went and just as we were about to give up, thinking it must have been cancelled, a whole load of pick-ups, vans and beaten-up cars pulled up right outside our gate. Out jumped 8 men in orange fluo, a number of excited dogs, a lot of testosterone and plenty of guns. Amusingly hunters have to wear high-visibility fluorescent vests to help limit accidents which rather makes a mockery of their camouflage clothing underneath! And off they went into the forest behind the house. We watched and listened for a while but saw and heard nothing until they reappeared less than an hour later, empty-handed, got back in their vehicles and drove off. Not a single shot was fired so fears of stampeding boars were somewhat misplaced.
However, a while later there was a knock at the door and we were handed a leg and large part of the belly of a freshly slaughtered boar. The leg still had its hoof and a lot of hair! Really not my kind of thing. Apparently, the hunters had relocated to the other side of the wood and shot four rogue animals. We hadn’t heard a thing and I found the timing suspiciously quick, to have managed to move location, hunt down the boars, kill them, haul them back to the trucks, take them to wherever they butchered them and return to us all within about an hour. But then if this hadn’t happened, why on earth would they pretend it had and where did they get the stock of sanglier just waiting to be handed out? So assuming the animals had been killed in our locality, you can’t get fewer food miles or more locally sourced food than that, can you? Organic too. We’ve put our lot in the freezer for now and having discussed it with the neighbours (who were also given a supply of meat) we’re thinking it’ll be the perfect thing to eat at our street party, la fête des voisins, next year!
After all this, the last word has to go to the wild boar though, as they’ve been back most nights this week and have done far more damage than ever before. They’ve dug up large parts of the lawn and burrowed through fences. Is this revenge? Pigs are supposed to be intelligent animals aren’t they? Do you have wild animals in your property? What do you do about it? What do you think about hunting them? I’d love to hear your stories and opinions.