French lawmakers have passed a new “sensory heritage” bill that will see rural sounds and smells protected under a new law.
This action comes after a number of prominent conflicts between rural communities and people from urban areas, including a particularly famous court case involving a rooster.
The rooster came to notoriety following a complaint from a neighbour concerning its early morning crows. The case was taken to court in 2019, with the court subsequently rejecting a bid to silence the animal in question.
This is just one of many similar incidents in France; complaints have been made about croaking frogs, “smelly” horses and noisy cicadas.
With the introduction of this new law, France has now officially adopted these aspects of rural heritage as part of its environmental policy.
The law will also grant protection to cow bells and droppings, grasshopper chirps and the sounds of tractors.
The introduction of this new law feeds into the wider issue of the rural-urban divide, a problem which is growing in many countries around the world. People living in cities and urban areas are often unaware and ignorant of the issues that rural citizens are faced with.
This ongoing alienation from nature is arguably one of the biggest problems that we have been faced with over the past century. In fact, this was the theme of the 64th General Assembly of the CIC in Montreux, which had the motto “Harmony with Wildlife – Urban and Rural Perceptions.”
The topics discussed at this GA looked to address how we can reconnect with nature, and subsequently increase awareness and understanding of how humans have impacted nature and how people can stand up and take appropriate action.
Many of these issues were also highlighted in a recent book published by Willy Schraen, President of the (French) National Federation of Hunters.
The book, entitled Un Chasseur en Campagne (A Hunter in the Countryside), put forward solutions for increasing the quality of life in rural areas, and acknowledged that the needs of rural communities may be in conflict with the priorities of urban citizens.
Hunters spend a significant amount of time observing nature, and are often more knowledgeable about the natural processes that occur there (often learned through compulsory hunting license exams). As such, many are deeply connected to rurality and understand what it means socio-culturally, economically and ecologically. In this sense, hunters, and Willy Schraen himself, are well placed to recognise and draw attention to some of the realities that exist in rural areas.
The CIC congratulates France for recognising the importance of rural lifestyles, and would encourage other countries to adapt a similar stance going forward.