A petition denouncing the “savage murder” of a noisy French cockerel called Marcel, allegedly killed by a neighbour of his owner, has gathered more than 72,000 signatures.
Marcel’s owner believes it is the latest case of a city-dweller who has moved to the country but finds the noise and smells of farm animals unbearable.
The case recalls a court battle over another raucous rooster, Maurice. He made international headlines and came to symbolise France’s urban-rural divide when a retired couple with a second home on the island of Oléron, off the western coast, took his owner to court. They wanted the bird to be stopped from waking them up with a dawn chorus of squawks and screeches. But the court ruled that he had “the right to crow”.
Maurice died of a respiratory infection during the coronavirus lockdown in June, but it has emerged that foul play was involved in the demise of Marcel a month earlier.
His owner, Sébastien Verney, said a neighbour had confessed to his “premeditated killing, with a rifle and an iron bar”. Mr Verney, who claims that his vegetable plot was also poisoned, is taking legal action.
He declined to name the neighbour allegedly involved before the case goes to court in December, but said he had never complained about the noise. “If he had come to us, of course we would have found a solution.”
Mr Verney, a schoolteacher who lives in the small village of Vinzieux in southern France, started the petition to alert the agriculture ministry to “the need to defend our rural areas from behaviour that threatens our country way of life.”
According to Le Figaro newspaper, “countless” court cases are being heard across France over country noises and smells, most brought by second home owners.
Mr Verney said about 10 “new families” had moved to his village from the nearby cities of Lyon and Saint-Étienne over the past six years. “Everyone has to learn to live together harmoniously,” he said. “The country is a place where people live, not a museum.”
He hopes that a bill to protect the “sensorial heritage” of rural areas, now before the French Senate, will help country-dwellers resist “unreasonable demands” by city people moving in.
Meanwhile, he said, Marcel’s legacy will be carried on by five male chicks born since he died.