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To mark World Animal Day, French President Emmanuel Macron has promised a further 15 million euros to restore and maintain animal shelters. He also stressed the importance of finding a balance between animal rights and traditional practices such as farming and hunting.
The president spent part of World Animal Day in Gray in the Haute-Saône department at an SPA animal shelter for dogs and cats, where he announced increased financial support for centres which take care of abandoned animals.
He reiterated the government's position to defend a law, currently being discussed in parliament on curbing the mistreatment of animals and the abandonment of pets, with France being one of the worst offenders in Europe.
Despite more recent media attention, the SPA says the number of abandoned pets has increased by sevevn percent.
On the topic of hunting versus animal rights, Macron called for "reconciliation".
"Too often we pit these two worlds against each other," Macron said referring to those who defend animal rights one one side and hunters and farmers on the other.
"Everyone is sensitive towards the living conditions for animals, while at the same time many of our fellow citizens are attached to their rural traditions," he said, referring to his support of hunting rules.
According to Hélène Thouy, co-founder of the Animal Party (Parti animaliste) and candidate in the 2022 presidential elections, the question of hunting is a major problem in France.
"Hunters have managed to convince political leaders that their cause is important, but they only represent two percent of the population," she says, adding that hunting and rural traditions don't necessarily sit side by side.
Support for animal rights
When asked about the 2.2 percent of votes for the Animal Party in the 2019 European elections, Macron agreed that "it is a cause which is important for our citizens, in particular young people, but not only them, because we have all come to realize we live among the living."
Animal rights have become a major issue in the presidential campaign, in part due to the increased spotlight shone on examples of animal cruelty by militant organisations such as L214 which regularly publish videos of scenes in abattoirs.
On the topic of farm animals, he also outlined the government efforts.
"We have modernised 150 abattoirs, including 50 which have been equipped with video surveillance," he said.
He listed other actions such as the rules concerning the ban on the culling of male chicks and the castration of pigs which would come into effect in 2022.
Activists such as Thouy are not convinced. "It's great to talk about it, and make promises, but now we need concrete measures," she says, pointing out that the Senate's failure to validate a law which would've made using wild animals in circuses obsolete.