France passes ‘sensory heritage’ law after plight of Maurice the noisy rooster

From crowing roosters to the whiff of barnyard animals, the “sensory heritage” of France’s countryside will now be protected by law from attempts to stifle the everyday aspects of rural life from newcomers looking for peace and quiet.

www.theguardian.com 

French senators on Thursday gave final approval to a law proposed in the wake of several high-profile conflicts by village residents and vacationers, or recent arrivals derided as “neo-rurals”.

A rowdy rooster named Maurice, in particular, made headlines in 2019 after a court in western France rejected a bid to have him silenced by neighbours who had purchased a holiday home nearby.

“Living in the countryside implies accepting some nuisances,” Joël Giraud, the government’s minister in charge of rural life, told lawmakers.

Cow bells (and cow droppings), grasshopper chirps and noisy early-morning tractors are also now considered part of France’s natural heritage that will be codified in its environmental legislation.

“It sends a strong message,” said Pierre-Antoine Lévi, the senator who acted as rapporteur for the bill. “It can act as a useful tool for local officials as they carry out their educational and mediation duties.”

The law is emblematic of growing tensions in the countryside between longtime residents and outsiders whose bucolic expectations often clash with everyday realities.

Corinne Fesseau and her rooster Maurice became the image of the fight when she was brought to court by pensioners next door over the bird’s shrill wake-up calls.

Critics saw the lawsuit as part of a broader threat to France’s hallowed rural heritage by outsiders and city dwellers unable or unwilling to understand the realities of country life.

Thousands of people signed a “Save Maurice” petition, and a judge eventually upheld the cock-a-doodle-doos.

In another case from 2019, a woman in the duck-breeding heartland of the Landes region was brought to court by a newcomer neighbour fed up with the babbling of the ducks and geese in her back garden.

A court in south-west France also threw out that case.

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