A French hunter escapes prison for killing a man he mistakes for a pig

A French hunter on Thursday avoided jail for the killing of a Franco-British man who he mistook for a pig, disappointing relatives and friends who wanted a harsher punishment.

Morgan Kane, 25, was killed in December 2020 in southwest France by Julien Feral, 35, while he was chopping wood on his land.

The ruling came days after the French government put in place stricter rules for the sport aimed at preventing such incidents, as debate grows over what for many remains a cherished tradition in rural France.

Ferral was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison sentence and banned from hunting for life after being tried for involuntary manslaughter in the southwestern French town of Cahors.

Meanwhile, the hunting organizer received an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a five-year hunting ban.

Prosecutors demanded that both men serve at least some time in prison.

“The justice system has done its job,” said Benoit Kossi, an attorney for Ken’s brother, within the limits of existing laws.

He added, “Now lawmakers need to do their job and create a specific ‘hunting offense’ that could allow for harsher penalties.”

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“The message was sent that if you kill someone, there will be absolutely no consequences,” said Ken’s friend Peggy, who did not give her last name.

She added, “I know it’s not necessarily a danger to the public, but to me it has to send the message that killing someone is nothing.”

– Featured for life –

Ken was shot while chopping wood near his home in Calviniac Village in December 2020.

“There isn’t a day I don’t think about it, it affected me for life. I’m sorry,” Ferrall told the court at the opening of the trial in November, admitting he “didn’t set the point.”

The investigation found that the hunter did not know the area and was stationed in a poorly chosen location without proper safety instructions.

“We are relatively happy to remove the lifetime hunting license” from the shooter, said Zoe Munchcourt, who heads an association launched by Ken’s friends to lobby for updated hunting laws.

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“On the other hand, we are not happy at all about the hunting regulator” and its ban for only five years, she added.

The case revived tensions between anti-hunting activists and advocates of a pastime and a rural practice that farmers see as essential to reducing deer numbers, and pigs in particular.

During busy times in the hunting season, the sound of gunshots reverberates through large parts of the French countryside, leading many walkers to avoid wooded areas for their own safety.

– Sundays without hunting –

President Emmanuel Macron’s government said Monday it would tighten rules against hunting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, beef up training and safety requirements, and create digital systems to warn other rural users of active hunting grounds.

Penalties will also be upgraded, including fishermen losing their licenses if they are involved in a serious incident.

But ministers stopped short of implementing a popular proposal to ban hunting entirely on Sundays, fearing a backlash from the powerful hunting lobby.

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Statistics show that hunting accidents in France have been declining over the past 20 years.

But cases of injury or even death from stray bullets remain highly emotional and are often covered extensively by the media.

The ruling in Kane’s case “builds us up in terms of what we’re putting in place in terms of safety,” said Michele Buscari, president of the hunters’ union in the southwestern lot section where the killing occurred.

There are 1.1 million active hunters in France, according to the National Federation, and about five million people have a hunting license.

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