Tuesday 25 July 2023 | 3

Brown bears in Ariège: faced with a disloyal opponent, the Prefecture, One Voice has obtained a hard-fought suspension of the decrees

Brown bears in Ariège: faced with a disloyal opponent, the Prefecture, One Voice has obtained a hard-fought suspension of the decrees

Mis à jour le 23 October 2023

Do you think you could win a bare-handed duel against Goliath with your strongest arm tied behind your back? This is essentially what we managed to do with the advice of the Thouy Avocats office to defend bears in Ariège last week. The Prefecture had authorised reinforced scaring shots two nights in a row the day after the decrees were published. With a rarely used legal proceeding and uncertain results, we obtained a quick and major victory! We are potentially taking on an endurance obstacle course. But for the bears and with your support, nothing will stop us!

Hr blog

Updated 25 July at 5:50pm
Our freedom emergency interim proceeding against the new decree from the Ariège Prefecture this time authorising bear scaring shots on bears in the Taus-Espugues pastures will be heard on 26 July at 2:30pm at the Toulouse Administrative Tribunal.

Updated 1 August 2023:

Unfortunately, our request has been rejected for this pasture.
Our thoughts are with the bears being mistreated on the Taus-Espugues pastures.

Essentially, the Tribunal has this time taken the final statement of the Prefect at face value, without requiring precise elements regarding attributing attacks to bears, the efficacy of simple scaring measures, or the significant nature of preying.

Despite the unfavourable position of this judge, the door is not completely closed for the future. In fact, One Voice’s request was not rejected on the basis of a lack of urgency or the infringement of a fundamental freedom (specific to an interim emergency suspension plea), which would have heavily compromised any new appeal. Certain achievements from last week’s ruling have not been called into question.

We have not lost heart and have not lost confidence for the future.
The victory that we obtained last week and the variability of the decisions made from one judge to the next allow us to remain hopeful despite the Prefecture’s subterfuge.

To flatter the farming lobby at all costs by making sound scaring possible (a source of stress for pregnant brown bears, and potentially dangerous for the cubs who can be injured or separated from their mother), the Prefecture is playing with legality. This year, to avoid an identical repetition of the scenario in summer 2022 where no scaring shots were possible thanks to our legal action, the Prefect has implemented clear and targeted attacks. These decrees are very time-limited (two nights) and are applied by the day after their publication, making any plea extremely difficult to file in sufficient time for a hearing to be set and a decision returned before the measures are executed.

Great ills require great remedies

As well as the cancellation plea that could make a decree illegal a posteriori and the suspension emergency interim proceeding that allows it to be interrupted within a few days (and thus often spares animals’ lives), a freedom emergency interim proceeding exists, which allows an even quicker suspension of the contested decree: in a few hours. But with the latter, the legal motives that we present to the tribunal to achieve our objective must be very specific, and it is rare that they are perfectly moulded to the situation. The extreme responsiveness and pointed argumentation that it requires explains why we have never tried this type of proceeding before.

Nothing decided in advance; obtaining fair decisions is even more delightful

As they did on 3 and 10 July, and 17 July at the end of the day, the Prefect published their three decrees relating to the Arreau shepherding group, the Trapech one, and the Massat-Le-Port pasture land association. But this time, we were ready. We filed our plea and freedom emergency interim proceedings on 18 July at the beginning of the afternoon, and the hearing was set that evening for the following morning at the Toulouse Administrative Tribunal.

We went to the dispute both determined and angry, but without foreseeing the final decision. And the shots during the night on 19 and 20 July did not take place: the three decrees were suspended urgently before they had been executed! A magnificent victory, which puts a clear stop to this abuse by the Prefecture.

For the judge, the conditions allowing these authorisations that are harmful to the protection of bears were not fulfilled regarding the number of attacks on herds, or their attributability with certainty to bears. This element was enough to suspend the decrees. Thus, the Prefectures strategy of making new similar decrees each week without proof of new developments will not be possible. The judge also made it clear that it was not necessary to examine the other arguments, in particular the lack of measures for the protection of herds that hit struck a chord with his colleague last year.

A freedom emergency interim proceeding on the right to a healthy environment: a victory that will set a precedent

These decisions are extremely significant on several levels. Firstly, they recognise the urgency of ruling on scaring measures, which is essential for bears and their cubs in the Pyrenees mountain range to live peacefully.

But also, and above all, on the fundamental freedom for the right to a balanced environment regarding animal protection, in particular those that are listed on the IUCN red list. Since its recognition by the State Council in 2022, this is only the second decision that has intervened on this fundamental freedom in aid of an association and been done successfully.

This is also in relation to the future case law to come that will allow us to now consider freedom emergency interim proceedings - extremely strict, and which we had always missed due to the lack of precedent on the subject - for other animals in particularly urgent situations.

A perpetual endurance test

Our 4th emergency suspension proceeding, which asked that the Prefecture be obliged to publish its decrees within an acceptable time frame, was rejected the next day due to the suspensions that occurred the day before. We were gasping for breath after our success in moving mountains. And the Tribunal, both kind and mocking, seemed to tell us: “You can see that when we want to, we can go beyond the impossible”!

We know that animal defence is a long-term fight and not a sprint. After this fourth decision, we believe that this perverse game will repeat itself tirelessly. But the Toulouse Administrative Tribunal judges have heard and sufficiently accepted our arguments. We will not hold the flag at half mast and will not hesitate to present to them again if necessary!

Seeming not to care at all about being sentenced, today on 25 July, the Ariège Prefecture published a decree authorising scaring shots on bears in another pasture on the nights of Wednesday to Thursday and Thursday to Friday (from 26 to 28 July). We are preparing a counterattack.

Faced with such irresponsible behaviour from State representatives, with you by our side, the bears have indispensable allies!

Translated from the French by Joely Justice

Julia Mothé
Hr blog

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Comments 3

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

amie des animaux | Thursday 27 July 2023

Mais qu'est-ce que c'est ces préfets à la solde des chasseurs ???
Préfets sans conscience ne sont que ruine de la biodiversité !!!

Maryse | Thursday 27 July 2023

simplement merci et courage, que l'amour et le respect des animaux l'emporte enfin!

trochu | Wednesday 26 July 2023

BRAVO ET MERCI POUR LES OURS ! Ce n'est qu'avec persévérance et patience que nous faisons évoluer les choses en faveur des animaux et c'est encourageant. Nous devons faire tomber tous ces lobby honteux de la chasse et de l'élevage quel qu'il soit car tous les animaux, qu'ils soient sauvages ou autres, doivent pouvoir vivre en paix et en liberté dans leurs habitats naturels. L'égoïsme et la cruauté humaine ça suffit !