In a not so distant time, although it now seems so, before the coronavirus pandemic changed so many things and priorities, what moved France were things like the countryside-city battle that was lived between the defenders of traditional rural life and the urbanites who invade the countryside on vacation with their customs and demands. The symbol of that pulse so French both in form and background was Maurice, a proud and shiny rooster that lived on the tourist island of Oléron and who was the protagonist of a legal battle for his habit of singing, like a poultry that was, at dawn, what bothered his summer neighbors. Maurice He won the trial last September and, with him, the rural world sang victory. Now he mourns his death, announced this week by his owner.
Maurice “He died last month during confinement,” Corinne Fesseau told Agence France Presse. The animal, which at six years old should have enjoyed the fullness of life (these birds can live up to a decade), had been suffering from coryza for months, a disease that causes respiratory problems in domestic chickens and roosters. Her owner claimed to have done “everything possible” to save her, but it was not enough. “We found him dead at the foot of the chicken coop,” he explained.
With him goes “an emblem, a symbol of the rural, a hero”, Fesseau celebrated posthumously. I was not exaggerating.
Maurice became the most famous rooster in France last summer, when he was brought to trial – along with his owner – by the neighbors, a retired couple who had installed their second residence next to that of Fesseau, who lives in Saint- Pierre-d’Oléron, the main town on the island of Oléron and whose population of 7,000 inhabitants quintuples in summer. The plaintiffs considered that Maurice had installed his corral a few meters from the neighboring house, whom he caused a “sound damage” with his habit of singing at dawn.
Although the case had some chiaroscuros – the affected houses are not in the middle of the countryside but in a town, as the plaintiffs argued – the case quickly became a symbol of the fight of “the city against the countryside”. After all, Maurice’s was the first to go to court, but not the only case that showed that urbanites who say they go to the countryside to rest and disconnect end up complaining about natural noises from the rural world. That same summer, the French press pointed out, some tourists tried to get the mayor of a town in Provence to spray the trees in the square because they were bothered by the sound of cicadas and, in another town in the center of the country, in Bondons, there were a request from another visitor to delay the ringing of the church bells, because when they rang at seven in the morning they woke her up. A couple of months after Maurice’s victory, that of the Soustons ducks arrived, whose owner had also been sued by the neighbors for the noise that, they said, made these animals that had been breeding on their land for more than three decades but whose Noise disturbed neighbors who had recently acquired neighboring property.
Maurice will no longer disturb his neighbors, although he will remain close to them: his owner has buried him in the garden.
But his legacy will last. In January, the National Assembly voted in favor of a bill that enshrines the notion of “sensory heritage” in the countryside. Since then, the smell of manure, the crowing of roosters or the songs of cicadas have been protected by law. “Lawyers will be able to prevent their clients: attention, there is a protected sensory heritage,” said the promoter of the regulation, the deputy Pierre Morel-À-L’Huissier. The initiative even received the approval of the State Council, which, after being consulted and although it made some clarifications, estimated that, in the end, both the objective of the regulation of “preservation of biodiversity and ways of life in the rural world , like that of conflict prevention, are legitimate ”. The highest administrative authority went even further and stressed that the subject, “at first sight nondescript, actually deals with profound issues that affect both French identity and coexistence.” A question that, with the idealization that many urbanites have made of the countryside after two long months of being confined by the coronavirus, could be more urgent than ever, although Maurice is no longer going to experience it.