In just about any rural area right around the globe, the sound of a rooster crowing at the break of dawn is commonplace. Many farmers don’t even bother owning alarm clocks, preferring instead the sound of their rooster, a reliable – if insistent – sound that signals the busy day has officially begun.
In France, in particular, the history and habits of those who live outside urban areas date back many, many centuries. Sights, smells and tastes are all of the utmost importance in France, in a way, perhaps, that other countries don’t quite share or understand.
Often traditions go back hundreds of years, and woe be to the person who interferes with those traditions. They do so at their own peril.
For one family in the village of Vinzieux in southeastern France, one of their cherished traditions has not only been interfered with – it’s been murdered.
Their prized rooster, Marcel, is no longer able to greet the day; he finally ruffled a neighbour’s feathers so badly, the neighbour took it upon himself to murder the cock in question.
Now, the owners who claim they are devastated by the loss, want to sue the so-called “murderer,” and battle it out in court. Whether the French legal system allows for punishment when the victim is poultry remains to be seen.
The French are famous for two things: fabulous cuisine, and an unsentimental attitude toward all animals, particularly those that live on farms.
But the family is pressing ahead with their case anyway, and has help from an animal advocacy organization, “Fondation 30 million d’amis”, or the “30 Million Friends Foundation.” The NGO works to protect all kinds of animals in France, and fights for fair treatment.
The family also started a petition to garner support for their cause, and at the time of this writing it has received almost 75,000 signatures. In a statement, they said the rooster was their “home’s pride and joy,” and that the family is “deeply shocked” by Marcel’s demise.
In 2019, the plight of another noisy rooster, Maurice, caused a huge uproar in France when neighbours complained the bird was hell bent on disturbing the whole area. A court upheld Marice’s right to crow, however, and concluded that living on a farm brings with it some inevitable noises – like roosters crowing and donkeys braying.
Although there is nothing to be done for Marcel now, the authorities are contemplating passage of a bill that protects the ambiance that is so much a part of rural France – the sounds, the smells, and other intrinsic details of life outside places like Paris and Lyon.
An official statement noted recently that, while the law may seem frivolous to those outside rural parts of the country, they are a vital part of pastoral life in places like Provence. It is intended to protect France’s “sensory heritage,” which includes everything from roosters crowing to the pungent smell of manure.
The family can get a new rooster, of course, but it’s difficult to say what would happen to it if it took up crowing the way Marcel did. But it’s not likely that any neighbour – no matter how annoyed they may be by its early morning serenading – would take matters into their own hands while the watchful eye of the law is upon them.
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The case has not yet been settled; nor has the law protecting “rural rights,” so to speak, been passed yet. But knowing how passionate French people are about traditions – rural and urban alike – it seems likely that all things that are important to life on a farm – the odours, the sounds, and the animals – are likely to earn the protection of government officials.