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Protest defends bullfighting, hunting small birds in south-west France

Torero El Cid in the arena at Mont-de-Marsan on Saturday
Torero El Cid in the arena at Mont-de-Marsan on Saturday AFP

Some 3,000 people demonstrated in south-west France on Saturday in defence of "traditions", such as hunting small birds, bullfighting and regional languages, which they believe are under threat from Green campaigners and metropolitan élites.

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The protesters braved the rain to rally in defence of the "spirit of the south" in front of the bullring in Mont-de-Marsan, in the Landes region on the Atlantic coast.

Local mayor Geneviève Darrieussecq told the crowd that a ban on hunting the ortolan, a small bird that is a member of the bunting family, has been a "catalyst" for a movement in defence of a number of controversial practises.

"One day it's hunting, the next it's force-feeding ducks [to produce foie gras], then it's bullfighting," Darrieussecq, a member of François Bayrou's centre-right Modem party, said. "We've had enough of this attempt to standardise our society."

Chefs want to serve protected bird

The ortolan, which is a gastronomic delicacy, has been a protected species since 1999, although the hunting ban could be lifted depending on the results of a study to establish how many there are in France today.

Michelin-starred chef Jean Coussau said that he and his colleagues, Alain Ducasse, Michel Guérard and Alain Dutournier, have been asking since 2014 to be allowed to serve the bird, traditionally cooked in Armagnac brandy, once a year.

Cross-party support

Insisting that "right-wing people, left-wing people, communists, socialist, centrists are all behind rurality to defend our culture and our hunts", Jean-Louis Carrière, a senator from the ruling Socialist Party, reported that a Charter of freedoms and cultural diversity had been presented to regional officials ahead of the rally.

It pledged to defend an "ancestral heritage" that includes hunting, bullfighting, gastronomy and the regional language, Occitan.

A similar demonstration took place in Mont-de-Marsan on 19 August.

Bullfighting defended

Eighty French towns are members of a grouping that defends bullfighting, which has been banned in Spanish Catalonia and is increasingly controversial in the rest of Spain.

The sport was officially recognised as part of France's "immaterial cultural heritage" in 2011 but the Ministry of Culture no longer lists it on its website, leading the Council of State to rule that the recognition has been repealed.

Saturday was the last day of the bullfighting season and Spanish matador Emilio de Justo triumphed at Mont-de-Marsan, cutting off both ears of a bull owned by Victorino Martin.

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