To most, the French countryside evokes an idyllic paradise, from the southern Provence region with its lavender fields to vineyard-covered Burgundy to the castles of the Loire Valley. In this postcard vision, you can smell the soft air, see the grazing cows and hear the silence, broken only by the rare tolling of local church bells.
You probably never considered ... the noise.
In the eastern region of Haute-Savoie, a local farmer Denis Bauquois has been on trial for several years because of his roosters crowing. After neighbors, infuriated with the birds' continuous cocoricos, sued him, Bauquois was sentenced to a 3,000-euro fine in 2019 for "neighborhood disturbances" but he appealed the decision, which brought back the case to court this month, France Bleu reports.
Defense lawyers argue that the neighbors moved in 25 years ago at a time when Bauquois already owned a dozen roosters, and they should have known what to expect. "It's as if tomorrow, a city dweller said 'I'm moving in the city but I'm complaining about the noise of the cars,' Then you need to move elsewhere," the lawyer told the local radio.
The neighbors' lawyer points out a rooster has a "very powerful crow" and that "a bailiff's report found that at 4 a.m., 18 successive cocoricos were recorded in just over two minutes."
Maurice and its owner — Photo: Corinne Fesseau
A law to protect the "sensory heritage of rural areas"
Alas, we French people have a special relationship with our rural areas we affectionately call la province, in particular opposition to the all-encompassing capital of Paris. Singer Michel Delpech wrote a song about his love for his family living in the Loir-et-Cher region, people who "don't show off", and who make fun of him for his city habits, and being afraid of walking in the mud.
In 2019, another rooster named Maurice had made headlines after his owner Corinne Fesseau had been sued by a retired couple who had bought a holiday home nearby and complained of noise pollution. A petition that gathered nearly 140,000 signatures in support of Maurice became a symbol of the division between urban and rural communities. A court eventually ruled in favor of the rooster and his owner.
Maurice's case and others across France, involving ducks, frogs and cicadas, eventually prompted the government to act. In January, a law was passed to protect the "sensory heritage of rural areas," from being silenced or swept away, including sounds and smells such as the roosters' crow, cow bells, tractor noise ... and, yes, pungent manure.
"Living in the countryside implies accepting some nuisances," Joël Giraud, the government's minister in charge of rural life, told the Senate. But since the law isn't retroactive, it won't apply in the case of Denis Bauquois, who will have to wait for the court's verdict in November.
While the law will certainly prevent similar cases from finding their way into courts, it won't silence the complaining. A man who bought a house in a village in the central département of Puy-de-Dôme last December decided to launch a petition against the local church's bells, regional daily La Dépêche reports. The man denounced "the racket of the bells," which ring every hour and half-hour, 24 hours a day. His petition, however, only gathered 17 signatures. The lack of support speaks volumes: If you live in the country, get used to it.