“Chabauty v. France” Case

On 4 October the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg delivered final judgment in the Chabauty v. France case.

The case, pertaining to the relationship between landownership and hunting rights, concerns the owner of land included in the hunting grounds of an approved municipal hunters’ association (“ACCA”) in France who complained that he was unable to remove it from the association’s control in order to derive benefit from it by leasing it for hunting. Under French law a landowner whose land does not exceed a certain size can be compulsorily included in an ACCA’s hunting ground, whereby a collective hunting right for the ACCA’s members be created throughout the common area. The applicant invoked Article 14 - prohibition of discrimination - taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 - protection of property – of the European Convention on Human Rights. Unlike in the recent case Herrmann v. Germany, judgment of 26 June 2012, the applicant was not complaining on ethical grounds.

In its ruling (which is final and without appeal), the ECHR rejected the applicant’s demand and unanimously held that there had been no discrimination on grounds of property under the Convention. The Court confirmed that the objectives sought by the French legislator of preventing the unregulated exercise of hunting and of promoting the rational use of game stocks, in the present case were in the general interest, and that the fact of obliging only small landowners to pool their hunting grounds was not in itself disproportionate to this aim of better management of game stocks. Since the applicant was not opposed to hunting on ethical grounds, this was an interference he had to tolerate. The Court is thereby following its reasoning in previous decisions concerning hunting legislation in France and Sweden.

This case could be considered as a closing to similar challenges by individuals not opposed to hunting on ethical grounds in France.

The judgment does not call into question national systems whereby the hunting right is strictly connected to the land ownership.