A trial in Rochefort, south-western France, which could literally cost Maurice his head, has been postponed until July 4. But Bruno Dionis du Séjour, the mayor of a tiny hamlet called Gajac en Gironde (400 inhabitants), is furious and is determined to save not only Maurice but the sounds of rural France. Maurice is a rooster.
The problem began a couple of years ago when a couple bought their secondary residence next door to Corinne Fesseau in Saint Pierre d’Oléron, an island off south western France. Little did they know Maurice would wake them every day at 6:30. The retirees want the rooster silenced.
This is just the latest case of urban elites trying to silence the countryside when they buy a secondary residence. Mayor Dionis du Séjour is counter-attacking by calling for the sounds of the countryside to be declared a “national heritage.”
As urban elites buy up property in a declining agricultural France, the problems with neighbors grow. Here are just a few of the cases to reach the courts over the past few years:
- A farmer fined 8,000 euros for his cows mooing
- Another fined 6,000 euros for the stink and flies bothering his neighbors
- A couple in Dordogne forced to fill in their pond because of frogs croaking
Dionis du Séjour wants a law passed protecting country sounds so that roosters crow, bells ring, dogs bark and birds chirp in total freedom “so that no trial from this day on can be made against them.
“As soon a you attack the church bells,” said Mayor Dionis du Séjour, “ you attack a whole village. It is a humiliation for a country person to be taken to court by someone who comes from the outside.”
Rural town halls are fighting back. In Biot, in the French Alps, in 2017, the town council flat out rejected a petition by some 20 occasional residents, mostly English, demanding the bells be taken off the cows. Summer Alpine pasturing is pretty much open range and the bells have been used for centuries to locate the animals.
Mayor Dionis du Séjour has the support of one Member of Parliament who is ready to enact legislation making the sounds of the countryside a protected national heritage. “Life in the country side is 365 days a year,” says the MP from very rural Lozère in southern France, Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier, “where people try to earn a living. It is unbearable that people who aren’t from there try to impose their conception to the detriment of rural life.”
“Today it’s a rooster,” says Christophe Sueur, Mayor of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron, Maurice’s hometown. “What will it be tomorrow? The seagulls, the noise of the wind, our accent?”
Maurice’s owner, Corinne Fesseau, even received a threatening letter with a shotgun shell which she took, unaccompanied by Maurice, to the gendarmerie.
Rural folks point out that smells, flies, animal noises and honey wagons a couple of times a year is what the countryside is all about. If the wealthy city-slickers don’t like it, then they should stay in their urban environment, they say.
MP Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier plans on consulting the Minister of Culture as to how one draws up a law to protect sounds. Meanwhile, a petition has been launched on the internet to prevent Maurice from becoming Coq-au-vin.
- You can sign the petition here: https://www.mesopinions.com/petition/animaux/faut-sauver-maurice-ile-oleron/31553
- On the mayor of Gujac: https://www.sudouest.fr/2019/06/04/ile-d-oleron-le-proces-du-coq-maurice-scandalise-un-maire-de-gironde-6166254-1584.php
- Maurice’s story: https://www.letelegramme.fr/france/bruits-de-campagne-un-maire-veut-les-faire-classer-au-patrimoine-national-04-06-2019-12302143.php