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article imageTragic hunting accidents in France demand tougher measures

By Anne Sewell     Oct 6, 2013 in World
After a 61-year-old French hunter accidentally killed his own son, mistaking him for a wild boar, and a six-year-old boy was also killed in a separate incident this week, there will be increased pressure for safety measures in hunting.
According to Ouest France (in French) on Thursday this week, the 61-year-old hunter accidentally shot his own son during a hunting party in the Ardèche region, after mistaking him for a wild boar. Reports said that he opened fire after seeing a shadow pass by. However, tragically, the shadow was his own son and not the wild boar he was hunting.
While efforts were made to resuscitate the 35-year-old man, he tragically died at the scene. His father collapsed, overcome with grief and shock, and had to be admitted to hospital.
In the same week another fatal accident caused the death of a six-year-old boy in the north of France, some days after being shot during a hunt near the village of Saveuse, west of Amiens in the Somme region last Sunday. In that incident, the boy was shot in the groin and succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday.
In that incident, initial findings show that the accident may have been a tragic freak of nature. Apparently the hunter left his gun on the ground, so that he could relieve himself, first taking care to remove the cartridges.
A second person then passed by, put the cartridges back into the gun and left the weapon lying "on a fence or on a tree."
A dog passed by and accidentally knocked the weapon, which fired, hitting the boy who was standing close by. Both father and his 16-year-old son, who it is believed reloaded the gun, were arrested by police on suspicion of manslaughter.
These two fatalities come after an incident with an 82-year-old deaf hunter left two mushroom pickers seriously injured, one critically. He reportedly mistook them for a pheasant.
The 82-year-old was banned by a court in Perigueux in the south west of France from hunting and from owning a gun for five years. His hunting license was cancelled and his rifle confiscated.
All these tragic incidents will no doubt lead to renewed calls for more stringent safety measures to be introduced during the hunting season.
The Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (ASPAS - in French) is campaigning for more safety measures to be introduced as well as for a ban on Sunday hunting. A spokesman denounced the “tragedies that can be added to the list of accidents that is already too long.”
Earlier this month, Pierre Athanaze, head of ASPAS, spoke to The Local and said laws needed to be changed in France to prevent more deaths.
He said:
“France is the only country in Europe where people can hunt every day, which is why we are the country in Europe with the most accidents."
“Hunting needs to be stopped on Sundays, because this is the most dangerous day. There are more and more people heading out into the countryside on a Sunday, whether it's walking, mountain biking or collecting mushrooms. We want an end to it.”
Referring to the incident with the 82-year-old man, Athanaze said that many people who hunt in France these days are elderly and are “not subject to any medical checks” to ensure they have their wits about them and are capable of spotting the difference between a pheasant and two mushroom collectors.
“They need to introduce medical checks for hunters,” he added.
The group is also campaigning to demand a change in the law, whereby hunt organizers can be held responsible in the case of serious accidents.
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