Hunter avoids jail for killing man he mistook for a wild boar in France

A French hunter avoided jail on Thursday for the killing of a Franco-British man he had mistaken for a wild boar, disappointing relatives and friends who had wanted a harsher sentence.

Morgan Keane, 25, was shot and killed in December 2020 in south-west France by Julien Feral, 35, while chopping wood on his land.

The ruling came days after the French government outlined tighter rules for the sport designed to prevent such accidents, as controversy grows over what for many remains a proud tradition in rural France.

Portraits and candles are displayed during a white march to pay tribute to Morgan Keane, a year after he was killed by a hunter, in Cajarc, southwest France, on December 4, 2021.


Feral was given a two-year suspended sentence and banned from hunting for life after his involuntary manslaughter trial in the southwestern French town of Cahors.

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

Prosecutors had asked that both men serve at least some prison terms.

“The justice system has done its job” within the framework of existing laws, said Benoit Coussy, a lawyer for Keane’s brother.

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

“The message has been sent that if you kill someone, there are absolutely no consequences,” said Peggy, a friend of the Keanes, who did not give her last name.

“I know he’s not necessarily a danger to the public, but to me you have to send a message that killing someone is nothing,” she added.

Keane was shot while chopping wood near his house in the village of Calvignac in December 2020.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it, it’s scarred me for life. I’m sorry,” Feral told the court at the opening of the trial in November, admitting he had not “identified the target.”

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

“We are relatively happy to remove the hunting license for life” from the shooter, said Zoe Monchecourt, who heads an association launched by Keane’s friends to push for updated hunting laws.

“On the other hand, we are not at all happy with the hunt organizer” and his ban of just five years, she added.

Reuters reported that the incident prompted Keane’s friends to organize a petition calling for restrictions on hunting that gathered more than 120,000 signatures.

“Morgan could be you… It could be your parents, it could be anyone,” Lea Jaillard, the petition’s co-organizer, told Reuters.

The petition prompted the Senate to create a panel to review the security.

The case reignited tensions between anti-hunting activists and defenders of a rural hobby and practice considered necessary by farmers to keep down deer and wild boar populations.

During the busy times of the hunting season, much of the French countryside echoes with the sound of gunshots, causing many hikers to avoid wooded areas for their own safety.

Last year a woman walking with a friend in the forested Cantal region died after being hit by a stray bullet. The shot came from a 17-year-old girl who was participating in a group hunt for wild boar.

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

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

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

Statistics show that hunting accidents have been on the decline in France over the past 20 years. But cases of injury or even death from stray bullets are still highly emotional and often heavily covered by the media.

The verdict in the Keane case “supports us in terms of what we put in place in terms of security,” said Michel Bouscary, president of the hunters’ union in the southwestern Lot department where the killing occurred.

There are 1.1 million active hunters in France, according to the national federation, and around five million people have hunting licenses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *