Willy Schraen, President of Hunters, Orleans: “Before we talk about hunting, we love nature”
This Thursday, February 2, in Orléans, the hunters of the Centre-Val de Loire region gathered around Willy Schraen, president of the national hunters’ federation, to discuss several topics and current events. A skilled communicator, he showed a good grace for the question-and-answer game.
How do you feel about the recently passed bill on the fencing of natural areas?
The past is a topic. Things are done. This is a converted page. There was no direct opposition from the hunting world. Everyone understands that we are in a balance that can be hard to find with private property, biodiversity issues, and the freedom to roam. We let things happen.
What do you think about the security component of the hunting plan announced by the government on January 9?
He is quite positive. Anything that can help reduce hunting accidents can only be positive. In twenty years, the number of deaths was divided into five, and the number of accidents was divided into four. No doubt we have brought them down drastically. Now the chief executive offers to accompany us in an action plan. The situation? It should be achievable. It is good to take action. More restrictive, we are not against. As long as we can control and enforce them. Today we are in the first discussion about more applications.
Hunting safety: What are the measures announced by Bérangère Couillard?
There is already a cost. How should we train 500,000 people by 2025 (there were 981,000 hunters in France in 2022, the average age was over 55)? We just have a financial problem. We can’t be against it. At the moment, we have not received anything from the minister (Bérangère Couillard, secretary of state responsible for ecology). We had a little chat this morning (Thursday, February 2nd) in the space. I repeat. These are not anti-hunting measures and have been in place for at least two decades.
How do you feel about game damage?
I think it is no longer acceptable for French hunters to support game compensation. It is no longer acceptable to have everything on our shoulders. We are asked to perform public service missions that are not funded elsewhere, and we gladly accept them. I believe that these hunters are often the armed wing of the environmental policy of the state, regions or local authorities.
But we are stuck with paying this damage across the whole area. However, we have a third of the same area and it is no longer possible to hunt it. However, we continue to pay for damages in this section. We pick the pockets of hunters. Some people are financially exhausted. So we will have to discuss money to know how to make all of this happen. Otherwise, we face a similar situation with Japan. Since there are not enough hunters, the government pays them to go hunting. We do not want to go to this extreme.
In France, we need to work on protecting more of what is available, better training, better explaining, sharing places with non-hunters. But be careful not to go too far in discouraging the hunters. Still, we won’t get there, and that will create problems for environmental policy and biodiversity. The hunter has influence. You should never forget that.
And the pig?
This type of problem is not French-French. Europe is even global. As in the United States, where losses of $1.4 billion were recorded last year. With the modernization of agriculture, the increase in the size of the field, the seas of corn, this animal is developing. French hunters are not solely responsible. Even if it is a village legend without it. At some point there should be people who take care not to kill them or protect them a little.
What are the solutions? Administrative battles?
We have the first problem, our workforce divided by two years in twenty years. Once we are free from the financial pressure of loss, we can review and discuss anything. There are also suburban areas where animals are sheltered. Sorry, but it is impossible to go hunting there, between houses, in residential areas. If we want to have a more important activity, we need to free ourselves from this financial part, which is becoming very difficult. There are not many countries where hunters pay. As in Spain. When hunters come to hunt, it is not to spit and howl, but to cheer. Children come to solve the problem.
And at the level of communication?
We have a problem. We hid, thinking that we would be safe for the rest of our lives. It is no longer relevant. A gap has opened with public opinion. People don’t know us anymore and they are afraid. If hunting was explained, there would be no need to defend it. Despite the media pressure of an accident or an ordinary incident, how is it that we have not had so many young and young women who have nothing to do with the campaign and want to get a license (hunting)? We have a traffic jam. Before we talk about hunting, we are nature lovers. We use and abuse nature with our constant presence. It creates more and more professions. No matter what people say, we have extraordinary values. Family spirit. Hunting is a collective thing, shared. It is a tradition, a transmission. Not to mention biodiversity.
Are you really green?
Obviously, even if it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It has become a political, general term. This is a shame. When we are in nature and put the gun down, our voluntary action is 4 billion euros. I ask the question: Who does this? But we never bothered to explain it. We’ve never done our work and we’re trying to make up for lost time.