A woman who rears ducks and geese in her back garden in southwestern France has been taken to court over neighbours’ claims they were too noisy in the latest legal tussle over the sounds of the countryside.
Two months ago a raucous rooster named Maurice became a national cause célèbre for being dragged to the dock over his dawn crowing on the Atlantic coast island of Oléron. A verdict is due on Thursday.
Yesterday, a court heard complaints from neighbours of Dominique Douthe, 67, who rears around 50 ducks and geese in the south-western Landes region, famous for its duck breeding and foie-gras.
The wife of the plaintiff couple, who did not wish to be named, told AFP that when they bought the house next to Douthe’s “there were fewer geese and ducks, making it less noisy”.
Since then her husband had approached Ms Douthe three or four times to try find a solution, she said. He also hired an acoustics expert, who recommended that Ms Douthe move her poultry pen further away from the neighbours’ property and build a wall to muffle the sound, to no avail.
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Mrs Douthe, who lives in Soustons, about 60km (40 miles) north of the Atlantic resort of Biarritz, said the row began a little over a year ago when the new neighbours moved into a house across the road.
She told the court: "I’ve been living here for 36 years and have had ducks for 36 years. I have never had a problem with other neighbours, only with this newcomer, that’s all."
Her lawyer said the court must "ask the question of whether noise is acceptable yes or no.”
He added: “It would be different if one was in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. This is a fight for the defence of rurality. I think it is a fight that is legitimate and right."
The neighbours were not in court but previously said that the ducks were being illegally reared by a river that ran into a protected nature area and risked polluting the area.
But the case has ruffled local feathers given the Landes region’s historic links to ducks and geese.
“Numerous homes here have a spot for raising poultry,” one woman told AFP. “We are in the Landes after all!”
Around 6,500 people have signed a petition in support of “the Hardy ducks,” as they have been dubbed after the name of a nearby lake.
Soustons’ mayor, Frederique Charpenel, warned in a Facebook post on Friday against stereotyping newcomers as “unable to integrate and making us lose our soul”. However, she said, it is “absolutely necessary … to preserve the characteristics of the countryside.”
A verdict is due on October 1.